Materials & Coatings

Self-Healing Spacecraft Material Plugs Holes in Seconds

Although shields and sophisticated maneuvers could help protect space structures, scientists have to prepare for the possibility that debris could pierce a vessel. NASA and a team from the University of Michigan developed a new material that heals itself within seconds and could prevent structural penetration from being catastrophic.

Posted in: News, Coatings & Adhesives, Materials

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'Snap' Design Mimics Venus Flytrap

A team led by physicist Christian Santangelo at the University of Massachusetts Amherst uses curved creases to give thin shells a fast, programmable snapping motion. The technique – inspired by the natural "snapping systems" like Venus flytrap leaves and hummingbird beaks – avoids the need for complicated materials and fabrication methods when creating structures with fast dynamics.

Posted in: News, Materials, Joining & Assembly, Mechanical Components

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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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Solar energy, Composite materials, Nanomaterials, Polymers

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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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Composite materials, Nanomaterials, Spacecraft

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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.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Composite materials, Magnesium, Nanomaterials, Radiators

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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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Graphite

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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.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Carbon dioxide, Robotics

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