Materials & Coatings

Low-Cost, High-Performance MMOD Shielding

Relatively inexpensive fiberglass fabric is proposed in place of costlier materials. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas High-performance micro-meteoroid and orbital debris (MMOD) shielding can be constructed from low-cost, off-the-shelf materials. The advantage in using this innovation is in achieving considerable reduction in both cost and mass of the shielding necessary to protect spacecraft from hypervelocity MMOD particle impacts. For instance, in a typical application of this technology for a visiting vehicle used to transport cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) over ten years, an estimated $330,000 is saved (at the time of this reporting) in using a less-expensive MMOD fabric over conventional materials, and an estimated 2,000-kg mass is reduced from the MMOD shielding using the materials and techniques described here compared to conventional means.

Posted in: Coatings & Adhesives, Materials, Briefs, TSP


Creating Better Thermal-Imaging Lens From Waste Sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team has found. The team successfully took thermal images of a person through a piece of the new plastic. By contrast, taking a picture taken through the plastic often used for ordinary lenses does not show a person’s body heat.

Posted in: News, Plastics, Optical Components, Optics, Photonics


3D-Printing Aerial Robot Mimics Tiny Bird

Scientists from Imperial College London have developed a 3D-printing Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV) that mimics the way that swiftlets build their nests.The MAV is a quad-copter, with four blades that enable it to fly and hover. The vehicle, made from off-the-shelf components, carries in its underbelly two chemicals that create polyurethane foam when mixed, and a printing module to deliver the foam. The foam can then be used to build simple structures or repair components.The texture of the polymer exuded from the 3D printer can also be used to create ’grippers,‘ which stick onto and transport objects to different locations. The MAV could therefore pick up and remove bombs, or dispose of hazardous materials without exposing humans to danger. The next step for the team is to enable the vehicle to fly autonomously in any environment. The scientists plan to incorporate high-speed cameras and sensors on board the MAV, which will act like a satellite navigation system for tracking and controlling of the flight trajectory.SourceAlso: Learn more about NASA's Robonaut 2.

Posted in: News, Aviation, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Plastics, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Sensors


NASA Simulator Recreates Space Dust

A team of scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, has successfully reproduced, on Earth, the processes that occur in the atmosphere of a red giant star and lead to the formation of planet-forming interstellar dust.Using a specialized facility, called the Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmIC), scientists now are able to recreate and study dust grains similar to the grains that form in the outer layers of dying stars. Scientists plan to use the dust to gather clues to better understand the composition and the evolution of the universe.In the past, the inability to simulate space conditions in the gaseous state prevented scientists from identifying unknown matter. Because conditions in space are vastly different from conditions on Earth, it is challenging to identify extraterrestrial materials. Thanks to COSmIC, researchers can successfully simulate gas-phase environments similar to interstellar clouds, stellar envelopes, or planetary atmospheres environments by expanding gases using a cold jet spray of argon gas seeded with hydrocarbons that cools down the molecules to temperatures representative of these environments.COSmIC integrates a variety of state-of-the-art instruments to allow scientists to recreate space conditions in the laboratory to form, process, and monitor simulated planetary and interstellar materials. The chamber is the heart of the system. It recreates the extreme conditions that reign in space where interstellar molecules and ions float in a vacuum at densities that are billionths of Earth's atmosphere.SourceAlso: Learn about Coatings for Lunar Dust Removal.

Posted in: News, Monitoring


Self-Repairing Plastic Regenerates After Damage

Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. The restorative material is delivered through two, isolated fluid streams (dyed red and blue). The liquid immediately gels and later hardens, resulting in recovery of the entire damaged region. For regenerating materials, two adjoining, parallel capillaries are filled with regenerative chemicals that flow out when damage occurs. The two liquids mix to form a gel, which spans the gap caused by damage, filling in cracks and holes. Then the gel hardens into a strong polymer, restoring the plastic’s mechanical strength.Such self-repair capabilities would be a boon not only for commercial goods – imagine a mangled car bumper that repairs itself within minutes of an accident – but also for parts and products that are difficult to replace or repair, such as those used in aerospace applications.SourceAlso: Learn about new Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Plastics


Testing Composite Structures for Stronger Bridges

The J. Lohr Structures Laboratory at South Dakota State University helps companies develop new materials and products — self-consolidating concrete columns and pre-stress concrete bridge girders — that bridge a physical gap. Over the past decade, researchers have conducted structural testing on large- and full-scale test specimens for private companies and government entities.

Posted in: News, Composites


The Flexibility of ITO Films in Electronic Coating Applications

Indium-tin oxide (ITO) is used in nearly all flat panel displays, laptop screens, and mobile phones, in addition to solar panels and “smart” windows. Indium Corporation, Utica, New York ITO is a doped metal oxide semiconductor that combines two properties that usually are mutually exclusive in most materials: optical transparency and electrical conductivity. It is critical to understand the importance of this combination of optical transparency and electrical conductivity. A flat panel display cannot work without both properties. Yet the very nature of electrical conductivity normally excludes optical transparency. Doped metal oxide semiconductors conduct electricity in a different manner than metals, and hence, are not doomed to be opaque.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs