Materials & Coatings

Wipes, Coatings, and Patches for Detecting Hydrazines

With suitable reformulation, other hazardous substances could also be detected. Three color-indicating devices have been conceived as simple, rapid, inexpensive means of detecting hazardous liquid and gaseous substances in settings in which safety is of paramount concern and it would be too time-consuming or otherwise impractical to perform detection by use of such instruments as mass spectrometers. More specifically, these devices are designed for detecting hypergolic fuels (in particular, hydrazines) and hypergolic oxidizers in spacecraft settings, where occasional leakage of these substances in liquid or vapor form occurs and it is imperative to take early corrective action to minimize adverse health effects. With suitable redesign, including reformulation of their color indicator chemicals, these devices could be adapted to detection of other hazardous substances in terrestrial settings (e.g., industrial and military ones).

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Improved Charge-Transfer Fluorescent Dyes

Improved charge- transfer fluorescent dyes have been developed for use as molecular probes. These dyes are based on benzofuran nuclei with attached phenyl groups substituted with, variously, electron donors, electron acceptors, or combi- nations of donors and acceptors. Optionally, these dyes could be incorporated as parts of polymer backbones or as pendant groups or attached to certain surfaces via self-assembly-based methods.

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Making Activated Carbon for Storing Gas

Solid disks of microporous activated carbon, produced by a method that enables optimization of pore structure, have been investigated as means of storing gas (especially hydrogen for use as a fuel) at relatively low pressure through adsorption on pore surfaces. For hydrogen and other gases of practical interest, a narrow distribution of pore sizes <2 nm is preferable. The present method is a variant of a previously patented method of cyclic chemisorption and desorption in which a piece of carbon is alternately (1) heated to the lower of two elevated temperatures in air or other oxidizing gas, causing the formation of stable carbon/oxygen surface complexes; then (2) heated to the higher of the two elevated temperatures in flowing helium or other inert gas, causing the desorption of the surface complexes in the form of carbon monoxide. In the present method, pore structure is optimized partly by heating to a temperature of 1,100 °C during carbonization. Another aspect of the method exploits the finding that for each gas-storage pressure, gas-storage capacity can be maximized by burning off a specific proportion (typically between 10 and 20 weight percent) of the carbon during the cyclic chemisorption/desorption process.

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Corrosion-Prevention Capabilities of a Water-Borne, Silicone- Based, Primerless Coating

Some formulations are better for steel, some for aluminum. Comparative tests have been performed to evaluate the corrosion-prevention capabilities of an experimental paint of the type described in “Water-Borne, Silicone-Based, Primerless Paints,” NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 26, No. 11 (November 2002), page 30. To recapitulate: these paints contain relatively small amounts of volatile organic solvents and were developed as substitutes for traditional anticorrosion paints that contain large amounts of such solvents. An additional desirable feature of these paints is that they can be applied without need for prior application of primers to ensure adhesion.

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Sol-Gel Process for Making Pt-Ru Fuel-Cell Catalysts

Relative to another process, this one takes less time and yields better results. A sol-gel process has been developed as a superior alternative to a prior process for making platinum-ruthenium alloy catalysts for electro-oxidation of methanol in fuel cells. The starting materials in the prior process are chloride salts of platinum and ruthenium. The process involves multiple steps, is time-consuming, and yields a Pt-Ru product that has relatively low specific surface area and contains some chloride residue. Low specific surface area translates to incomplete utilization of the catalytic activity that might otherwise be available, while chloride residue further reduces catalytic activity (“poisons” the catalyst). In contrast, the sol-gel process involves fewer steps and less time, does not leave chloride residue, and yields a product of greater specific area and, hence, greater catalytic activity.

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Low-Density, Aerogel-Filled Thermal- Insulation Tiles

Aerogel fillings have been investigated in a continuing effort to develop low-density thermal-insulation tiles that, relative to prior such tiles, have greater dimensional stability (especially less shrinkage), equal or lower thermal conductivity, and greater strength and durability. In preparation for laboratory tests of dimensional and thermal stability, prototypes of aerogel-filled versions of recently developed low-density tiles have been fabricated by impregnating such tiles to various depths with aerogel formations ranging in density from 1.5 to 5.6

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High-Performance Polymers Having Low Melt Viscosities

Mixtures of differently shaped molecules have properties superior to the corresponding linear polymers. High-performance polymers that have improved processing characteristics, and a method of making them, have been invented. One of the improved characteristics is low (relative to corresponding prior polymers) melt viscosities at given temperatures. This characteristic makes it possible to utilize such processes as resin transfer molding and resin-film infusion and to perform autoclave processing at lower temperatures and/or pressures. Another improved characteristic is larger processing windows — that is, longer times at low viscosities. Other improved characteristics include increased solubility of uncured polymer precursors that contain reactive groups, greater densities of cross-links in cured polymers, improved mechanical properties of the cured polymers, and greater resistance of the cured polymers to chemical attack.

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