Materials & Coatings

Chemical Passivation of Li+-Conducting Solid Electrolytes

Such passivation could enable long-life lithium rechargeable cells. Plates of a solid electrolyte that exhibits high conductivity for positive lithium ions can now be passivated to prevent them from reacting with metallic lithium. Such passivation could enable the construction and operation of high-performance, long-life lithium-based rechargeable electrochemical cells containing metallic lithium anodes. The advantage of this approach, in comparison with a possible alternative approach utilizing lithium-ion graphitic anodes, is that metallic lithium anodes could afford significantly greater energy-storage densities.

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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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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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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.

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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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Gas Sensors Based on Coated and Doped Carbon Nanotubes

Large specific surface areas of nanotubes could enable attainment of high sensitivities. Efforts are underway to develop inexpensive, low-power electronic sensors, based on single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), for measuring part-per-million and part-per-billion of selected gases (small molecules) at room temperature. Chemically unmodified SWCNTs are mostly unresponsive to typical gases that one might wish to detect. However, the electrical resistances of SWCNTs can be made to vary with concentrations of gases of interest by coating or doping the SWCNTs with suitable materials. Accordingly, the basic idea of the present development efforts is to incorporate thus-treated SWCNTs into electronic devices that measure their electrical resistances.

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Photochemically Synthesized Polyimides

Single monomers are polymerized by exposure to ultraviolet light, without heating. An alternative to the conventional approach to synthesis of polyimides involves the use of single monomers that are amenable to photopolymerization. Heretofore, the synthesis of polyimides has involved multiple-monomer formulations and heating to temperatures that often exceed 250 °C. The present alternative approach enables synthesis under relatively mild conditions that can include room temperature.

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