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Lightweight, Flexible, Energy-Manageable Polymer Nanocomposites

Applications include solar power panels on aircraft wings or building roofs, and in hybrid car engines. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia Solar energy has attracted keen attention because it is a unique, clean, and sustainable energy resource. It is also widely utilized as a power source in space exploration. A lightweight, durable, deployable, and highly efficient all polymer-based solar power panel was developed comprising a highly efficient thermoelectric conducting polymer composite layer and highly efficient solar absorbance/passive cooling coatings for maximizing efficiency of the power conversion.

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Nanocomposites for Radiation Shielding

Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia Currently, lead and lead-based materials are used to fabricate shields not only for X-rays, but also for other types of radiation. With the growing environmental concern about the toxicity of lead, and the high costs associated with transporting heavy lead-based shields in spacecraft, alternatives are needed for fabricating X-ray shields that are less toxic and lighter.

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Advanced Protective Coatings for Graphite Substrates

This innovation enables application of graphite components in a hydrogen environment at very high temperatures. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio The purpose of this innovation is to develop advanced multilayered coating architectures to protect graphite substrates from hot hydrogen attack. The concept consists of coating the graphite substrate with metallic and non-metallic layers consisting of ZrC; Nb, Mo, and/or Nb-Mo alloy; and/or Mo2C.

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Regenerable Trace-Contaminant Sorbent for the Primary Life Support System (PLSS)

This technology has applications in air-revitalization systems on spacecraft, submarines, automobiles, and commercial aircraft. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas The NASA objective of expanding the human experience into the far reaches of space requires the development of regenerable life support systems. This work addresses the development of a regenerable air-revitalization system for trace-contaminant (TC) removal for the spacesuit used in extravehicular activities (EVAs). Currently, a bed of granular activated carbon is used for TC control. The carbon is impregnated with phosphoric acid to enhance ammonia sorption, but this also makes regeneration difficult, if not impossible. Temperatures as high as 200 °C have been shown to be required for only partial desorption of ammonia on time scales of 18,140 hours. Neither these elevated temperatures nor the long time needed for sorbent regeneration are acceptable. Thus, the activated carbon has been treated as an expendable resource, and the sorbent bed has been oversized in order to last throughout the entire mission.

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Lithium Fluoride as a Polysulfide Shuttle Inhibitor for Lithium Sulfur Chemistry

This invention imparts properties such as reinforcement, enhanced tensile strength, and/or electrical and thermal conductivity to composites. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas In a lithium sulfur cell, the reduction of sulfur to lithium sulfide is a critical series of reactions that provides a large theoretical capacity of 1,672 mAh/g sulfur. One of many challenges in this system is the solubility of generated lithium polysulfides during the charge/discharge process. These polysulfides derived from the reduction of elemental sulfur are soluble in organic electrolytes, and can be reduced at the anode, causing an undesired reaction. Polysulfide species can also accumulate at the surface of the cathode and be further reduced to lower-order polysulfides such as Li2S2 or Li2S. The insulating nature of these lower-order polysulfides blocks the electron pathway on the carbon cathode.

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Fibers of Aligned Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes and Process for Making the Same

This invention imparts properties such as reinforcement, enhanced tensile strength, and/or electrical and thermal conductivity to composites. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas Single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are fullerenes of closed-cage carbon molecules typically arranged in hexagons and pentagons. Commonly known as “buckytubes,” these cylindrical carbon structures have extraordinary properties, including high electrical and thermal conductivity, as well as high strength and stiffness. With intrinsic strength estimated to be on the order of 100 times that of steel, SWNTs are a possible strengthening reinforcement in composite materials. The intrinsic electronic properties of SWNTs also make them electrical conductors and useful in applications involving field mission devices such as flat-panel displays, and in polymers used for radio frequency interference and electromagnetic shielding that require electrical conductance properties.

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Enhancing MRI Contrast by Geometrical Confinement of Small Imaging Agents Within Nanoporous Particles

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has evolved into one of the most powerful, non-invasive diagnostic imaging techniques in medicine and biomedical research. The superior resolution and in-depth anatomical details provided by MRI are essential for early diagnosis of many diseases. Chemical contrast agents (CAs) have been widely used for improving the sensitivity and diagnostic confidence in MRI.

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