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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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Lightweight, High-Strength Nanocomposite Magnesium for Radiators

New material offers an exceptional balance of properties and cost. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama The next generation of radiators will be designed using a composite with the combination of the lowest density, highest thermal conductivity, and highest strength. A scalable, low-cost process was developed to advance state-of-the-art metal matrix thermal conductors to reach a theoretical goal of 578 W/mK (270W/mK achieved), a density less than aluminum (1.7g.cc achieved), and a yield strength over 30 ksi (≈207 MPa, 42 ksi achieved). The incorporation of nanofibers into metals has been heavily researched to improve mechanical and thermal properties of materials, with limited technical and commercial success. The problem of incorporating high-aspect-ratio, high-surface-area particles (including fiber and flake) with controlled and repeatable concentration and distribution into molten metals is a large undertaking, and must factor in the molten metal temperature, composition, and surface tension. Direct feeding of the particles does not work, as particles burn, react with the molten metal, or do not stay in the metal. Other feeding mechanisms such as auger feeding into the metal, in-situ formation, and stir casting are cost-prohibitive and not always scalable.

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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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Plasma Extraction of Oxygen from the Martian Atmosphere

Microwave plasmas use systems that are smaller, lighter, and less complex than traditional reactors. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Extraction of oxygen from the abundant carbon dioxide present on Mars (96% atmospheric composition) is an important objective in preparation for missions to the planet. Oxygen is not only a fundamental reactant with high-specific-energy chemical fuels such as hydrogen and methane, but, along with water, it is arguably one of the most critical resources for life support. Using microwave plasma techniques to decompose CO2 into CO and O2, coupled with a technology to separate O2 as it is produced, a robotic processor located on the Martian surface would allow oxygen to be stockpiled for later use. Using innovative standing-wave microwave plasma reactor designs, ubiquitous 2.45-GHz microwave technology was employed to demonstrate 86% single-pass carbon dioxide decomposition.

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Application of Carbon Nanotube Hold-Off Voltage for Determining Gas Composition

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California In this innovation, a method and associated system have been created to vary a voltage applied to an exposed end of a carbon nanotube for a selected time interval to promote gas discharge, and to estimate a gas component involved in the discharge. Each component of a gas has a first, lower threshold discharge (voltage value, V∞) at which discharge can occur after a long time delay (t(V∞:ho)≈∞), where “ho” refers to a discharge voltage holdoff value. Application of a voltage V above this lower limit V∞ will cause the gas component to undergo a discharge after a discharge holdoff time t(V:ho) that decreases as V increases above V∞.

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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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