Materials

Shields for Enhanced Protection Against High-Speed Debris

A report describes improvements over the conventional Whipple shield (two thin, spaced aluminum walls) for protecting spacecraft against high-speed impacts of orbiting debris. The debris in question arises mainly from breakup of older spacecraft. The improved shields include exterior "bumper" layers composed of hybrid fabrics woven from combinations of ceramic fibers and high-density metallic wires or, alternatively, completely metallic outer layers composed of high-strength steel or copper wires. These shields are designed to be light in weight, yet capable of protecting against orbital debris with mass densities up to about 9 g/cm3, without generating damaging secondary debris particles. As yet another design option, improved shields can include sparsely distributed wires made of shape memory metals that can be thermally activated from compact storage containers to form shields of predetermined shape upon arrival in orbit. The improved shields could also be used to augment shields installed previously.

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Lower-Conductivity Thermal-Barrier Coatings

Additional stabilizers are incorporated into yttria-stabilized zirconia. Thermal-barrier coatings (TBCs) that have both initial and post-exposure thermal conductivities lower than those of yttria-stabilized zirconia TBCs have been developed. TBCs are thin ceramic layers, generally applied by plasma spraying or physical vapor deposition, that are used to insulate air-cooled metallic components from hot gases in gas turbine and other heat engines. Heretofore, yttria-stabilized zirconia (nominally comprising 95.4 atomic percent ZrO2 + 4.6 atomic percent Y2O3) has been the TBC material of choice. The lower-thermal-conductivity TBCs are modified versions of yttria-stabilized zirconia, the modifications consisting primarily in the addition of other oxides that impart microstructural and defect properties that favor lower thermal conductivity.

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Flexible Composite-Material Pressure Vessel

A proposed lightweight pressure vessel would be made of a composite of high-tenacity continuous fibers and a flexible matrix material. The flexibility of this pressure vessel would render it (1) compactly stowable for transport and (2) more able to withstand impacts, relative to lightweight pressure vessels made of rigid composite materials. The vessel would be designed as a structural shell wherein the fibers would be predominantly bias-oriented, the orientations being optimized to make the fibers bear the tensile loads in the structure. Such efficient use of tension-bearing fibers would minimize or eliminate the need for stitching and fill (weft) fibers for strength. The vessel could be fabricated by techniques adapted from filament winding of prior composite-material vessels, perhaps in conjunction with the use of dry film adhesives. In addition to the high-bias main-body substructure described above, the vessel would include a low-bias end substructure to complete coverage and react peak loads. Axial elements would be overlaid to contain damage and to control fiber orientation around side openings. Fiber ring structures would be used as interfaces for connection to ancillary hardware.

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Process for Smoothing an Si Substrate After Etching of SiO2

Reactive-ion etching can be tailored to minimize undesired side effects. A reactive-ion etching (RIE) process for smoothing a silicon substrate has been devised. The process is especially useful for smoothing those silicon areas that have been exposed by etching a pattern of holes in a layer of silicon dioxide that covers the substrate. Applications in which one could utilize smooth silicon surfaces like those produced by this process include fabrication of optical waveguides, epitaxial deposition of silicon on selected areas of silicon substrates, and preparation of silicon substrates for deposition of adherent metal layers.

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Treatment To Destroy Chloro-hydrocarbon Liquids in the Ground

Emulsified iron is injected into the ground and left there. A relatively simple chemical treatment that involves the use of emulsified iron has been found to be effective in remediating groundwater contaminated with trichloroethylene and other dense chlorohydrocarbon liquids. These liquids are members of the class of dense, non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs), which are commonly recognized to be particularly troublesome as environmental contaminants. The treatment converts these liquids into less-harmful products.

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Fabrication of Polyimide-Matrix/Carbon and Boron-Fiber Tape

Production costs can be reduced and compression strengths increased. The term “HYCARB” denotes a hybrid composite of polyimide matrices reinforced with carbon and boron fibers. HYCARB and an improved process for fabricating dry HYCARB tapes have been invented in a continuing effort to develop lightweight, strong composite materials for aerospace vehicles. Like other composite tapes in this line of development, HYCARB tapes are intended to be used to build up laminated structures having possibly complex shapes by means of automated tow placement (ATP) — a process in which a computer controlled multiaxis machine lays down prepreg tape or tows. The special significance of the present process for making dry HYCARB for ATP is that it contributes to the reduction of the overall cost of manufacturing boron-reinforced composite-material structures while making it possible to realize increased compression strengths.

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Protective Skins for Aerogel Monoliths

Viscous polymer precursors are applied, then polymerized before they can percolate in. A method of imparting relatively hard protective outer skins to aerogel monoliths has been developed. Even more than aerogel beads, aerogel monoliths are attractive as thermal-insulation materials, but the commercial utilization of aerogel monoliths in thermal-insulation panels has been inhibited by their fragility and the consequent difficulty of handling them. Therefore, there is a need to afford sufficient protection to aerogel monoliths to facilitate handling, without compromising the attractive bulk properties (low density, high porosity, low thermal conductivity, high surface area, and low permittivity) of aerogel materials. The present method was devised to satisfy this need.

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