Materials

Organic/Inorganic Polymeric Composites for Heat-Transfer Reduction

Organic/inorganic polymeric composite materials have been invented with significant reduction in heat-transfer properties. Measured decreases of 20–50 percent in thermal conductivity versus that of the unmodified polymer matrix have been attained. These novel composite materials also maintain mechanical properties of the unmodified polymer matrix. The present embodiments are applicable, but not limited to: racing applications, aerospace applications, textile industry, electronic applications, military hardware improvements, and even food service industries. One specific application of the polymeric composition is for use in tanks, pipes, valves, structural supports, and components for hot or cold fluid process systems where heat flow through materials is problematic and not desired.

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Special Polymer/Carbon Composite Films for Detecting SO2

These films offer distinct advantages over prior SO2-sensor materials. A family of polymer/ carbon films has been developed for use as sensory films in electronic noses for detecting SO2 gas at concentrations as low as 1 part per million (ppm). Most previously reported SO2 sensors cannot detect SO2 at concentrations below tens of ppm; only a few can detect SO2 at 1 ppm. Most of the sensory materials used in those sensors (especially inorganic ones that include solid oxide electrolytes, metal oxides, and cadmium sulfide) must be used under relatively harsh conditions that include operation and regeneration at temperatures >100 °C. In contrast, the present films can be used to detect 1 ppm of SO2 at typical operating temperatures between 28 and 32 °C and can be regenerated at temperatures between 36 and 40 °C.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Fuel-Cell Electrolytes Based on Organosilica Hybrid Proton Conductors

A new membrane composite material that combines an organosilica proton conductor with perfluorinated Nafion material to achieve good proton conductivity and high-temperature performance for membranes used for fuel cells in stationary, transportation, and portable applications has been developed.

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Molecules for Fluorescence Detection of Specific Chemicals

These molecules could be used in the detection of chemical warfare agents. A family of fluorescent dye molecules has been developed for use in “on-off” fluorescence detection of specific chemicals. By themselves, these molecules do not fluoresce. However, when exposed to certain chemical analytes in liquid or vapor forms, they do fluoresce (see figure). These compounds are amenable to fixation on or in a variety of substrates for use in fluorescence-based detection devices: they can be chemically modified to anchor them to porous or non-porous solid supports or can be incorporated into polymer films. Potential applications for these compounds include detection of chemical warfare agents, sensing of acidity or alkalinity, and fluorescent tagging of proteins in pharmaceutical research and development. These molecules could also be exploited for use as two-photon materials for photodynamic therapy in the treatment of certain cancers and other diseases.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Refractory Ceramic Foams for Novel Applications

Properties could be tailored for specific uses as insulators, filters, or catalyst supports. Workers at NASA Ames Research center are endeavoring to develop durable, oxidation- resistant, foam thermal protection systems (TPSs) that would be suitable for covering large exterior spacecraft surfaces, would have low to moderate densities, and would have temperature capabilities comparable to those of carbon- based TPSs [reusable at 3,000 °F (≈1,650 °C)] with application of suitable coatings. These foams may also be useful for repairing TPSs while in orbit. Moreover, on Earth as well as in outer space, these foams might be useful as catalyst supports and filters.

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Self-Deploying Trusses Containing Shape-Memory Polymers

Compacted structures can be used in shelters for hostile environments. Composite truss structures are being developed that can be compacted for stowage and later deploy themselves to full size and shape. In the target applications, these “smart” structures will precisely self-deploy and support a large, lightweight space-based antenna. Self-deploying trusses offer a simple, light, and affordable alternative to articulated mechanisms or inflatable structures. The trusses may also be useful in such terrestrial applications as variable-geometry aircraft components or shelters that can be compacted, transported, and deployed quickly in hostile environments.

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Optimized Carbonate and Ester-Based Li-Ion Electrolytes

This technology can be used in portable electronics, cell phones, and electric vehicles. To maintain high conductivity in low temperatures, electrolyte co-solvents have been designed to have a high dielectric constant, low viscosity, adequate coordination behavior, and appropriate liquid ranges and salt solubilities. Electrolytes that contain ester-based co-solvents in large proportion (>50 percent) and ethylene carbonate (EC) in small proportion (<20 percent) improve low-temperature performance in MCMB carbon-LiNiCoO2 lithium-ion cells. These co-solvents have been demonstrated to enhance performance, especially at temperatures down to –70 °C. Low-viscosity, ester-based co-solvents were incorporated into multi-component electrolytes of the following composition: 1.0 M LiPF6 in ethylene carbonate (EC) + ethyl methyl carbonate (EMC) + X (1:1:8 volume percent) [where X = methyl butyrate (MB), ethyl butyrate EB, methyl propionate (MP), or ethyl valerate (EV)]. These electrolyte formulations result in improved low-temperature performance of lithium-ion cells, with dramatic results at temperatures below –40 °C. [See “Ester-Based Electrolytes for Low-Temperature Li-Ion Cells,” (NPO-41097) NASA Tech Briefs, Vol 29, No. 12 (December, 2005), p. 59.]

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