Materials

Liquid-Crystal Thermosets, a New Generation of High-Performance Liquid-Crystal Polymers

Liquid-crystal polymers can now be used as resins in textile composites. One of the major challenges for NASA's next-generation reusable-launch-vehicle (RLV) program is the design of a cryogenic lightweight composite fuel tank. Potential matrix resin systems need to exhibit a low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), good mechanical strength, and excellent barrier properties at cryogenic temperatures under load. In addition, the resin system needs to be processable by a variety of non-autoclavable techniques, such as vacuum-bag curing, resin-transfer molding (RTM), vacuum-assisted resin-transfer molding (VaRTM), resin-film infusion (RFI), pultrusion, and advanced tow placement (ATP).

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Nonlinear Thermoelastic Model for SMAs and SMA Hybrid

This model captures essential mechanics with fundamental engineering property input. A constitutive mathematical model has been developed that predicts the nonlinear thermomechanical behaviors of shape-memory alloys (SMAs) and of shape- memory-alloy hybrid composite (SMAHC) structures, which are composite-material structures that contain embedded SMA actuators. SMAHC structures have been investigated for their potential utility in a variety of applications in which there are requirements for static or dynamic control of the shapes of structures, control of the thermoelastic responses of structures, or control of noise and vibrations. The present model overcomes deficiencies of prior, overly simplistic or qualitative models that have proven ineffective or intractable for engineering of SMAHC structures. The model is sophisticated enough to capture the essential features of the mechanics of SMAHC structures yet simple enough to accommodate input from fundamental engineering measurements and is in a form that is amenable to implementation in general-purpose structural analysis environments.

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Reproducible Growth of High-Quality Cubic-SiC Layers

Cubic SiC could be used to improve high-power and harsh-environment electronic devices. Semiconductor electronic devices and circuits based on silicon carbide (SiC) are being developed for use in high-temperature, high-power, and/or high-radiation conditions under which devices made from conventional semiconductors cannot adequately perform. The ability of SiC-based devices to function under such extreme conditions is expected to enable significant improvements in a variety of applications and systems. These include greatly improved high-voltage switching for saving energy in public electric power distribution and electric motor drives; more powerful microwave electronic circuits for radar and communications; and sensors and controls for cleaner-burning, more fuel-efficient jet aircraft and automobile engines.

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Study of Rapid-Regression Liquefying Hybrid Rocket Fuels

A report describes experiments directed toward the development of paraffin-based hybrid rocket fuels that burn at regression rates greater than those of conventional hybrid rocket fuels like hydroxyl-terminated butadiene. The basic approach followed in this development is to use materials such that a hydrodynamically unstable liquid layer forms on the melting surface of a burning fuel body. Entrainment of droplets from the liquid/gas interface can substantially increase the rate of fuel mass transfer, leading to surface regression faster than can be achieved using conventional fuels. The higher regression rate eliminates the need for the complex multi-port grain structures of conventional solid rocket fuels, making it possible to obtain acceptable performance from single-port structures. The high-regression-rate fuels contain no toxic or otherwise hazardous components and can be shipped commercially as non-hazardous commodities. Among the experiments performed on these fuels were scale-up tests using gaseous oxygen. The data from these tests were found to agree with data from small-scale, low-pressure and low-mass-flux laboratory tests and to confirm the expectation that these fuels would burn at high regression rates, chamber pressures, and mass fluxes representative of full-scale rocket motors.

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Elastomer Filled With Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes

Strength and stiffness increase with SWNT content. Experiments have shown that composites of a silicone elastomer with single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are significantly stronger and stiffer than is the unfilled elastomer. The large strengthening and stiffening effect observed in these experiments stands in contrast to the much smaller strengthening effect observed in related prior efforts to reinforce epoxies with SWNTs and to reinforce a variety of polymers with multiple-wall carbon nanotubes (MWNTs). The relative largeness of the effect in the case of the silicone-elastomer/SWNT composites appears to be attributable to (1) a better match between the ductility of the fibers and the elasticity of the matrix and (2) the greater tensile strengths of SWNTs, relative to MWNTs.

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Urethane/Silicone Adhesives for Bonding Flexing Metal Parts

These adhesives make strong, flexible bonds. Adhesives that are blends of commercially available urethane and silicone adhesives have been found to be useful for bonding metal parts that flex somewhat during use. These urethane/silicone adhesives are formulated for the specific metal parts to be bonded. The bonds formed by these adhesives have peel and shear strengths greater than those of bonds formed by double-sided tapes and by other adhesives, including epoxies and neat silicones. In addition, unlike the bonds formed by epoxies, the bonds formed by these adhesives retain flexibility.

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Fibrous-Ceramic/Aerogel Composite Insulating Tiles

The best features of aerogels and fibrous ceramics are exploited. Fibrous-ceramic/aerogel composite tiles have been invented to afford combinations of thermal-insulation and mechanical properties superior to those attainable by making tiles of fibrous ceramics alone or aerogels alone. These lightweight tiles can be tailored to a variety of applications that range from insulating cryogenic tanks to protecting spacecraft against reentry heating.

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