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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Battery cell chemistry, Electrolytes, Lithium, Metals

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.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Antennas, Storage, Composite materials, Smart materials, Spacecraft

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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Ceramics, Foams, Insulation, Refractory materials, Durability

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: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Sensors and actuators, Medical equipment and supplies, Chemicals, Test equipment and instrumentation

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.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Fuel cells, Composite materials, Conductivity, Electrolytes

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.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Sensors and actuators, Gases, Nanomaterials

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.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Forming, Productivity, Polymers

Hydroxide-Assisted Bonding of Ultra-Low-Expansion Glass

Preparation of bond surfaces is critical to success.

A process for hydroxide-assisted bonding has been developed as a means of joining optical components made of ultra-low-expansion (ULE) glass, while maintaining sufficiently precise alignment between. The process is intended mainly for use in applications in which (1) bonding of glass optical components by use of epoxy does not enable attainment of the required accuracy and dimensional stability and (2) conventional optical contacting (which affords the required accuracy and stability) does not afford adequate bond strength.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Optics, Joining, Glass

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.]

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Optimization, Lithium-ion batteries, Electrolytes, Materials properties

LiCoPO₄ Cathode Layers for Thin-Film Batteries

Highest voltage thin-film batteries ever reported are demonstrated at low current densities.

LiCoPO4 has been found to be a promising active cathode material for high-energy-density, thin-film, rechargeable electrochemical power cells. The potential of the charge/discharge plateau of a cell containing an LiCoPO4 cathode is 4.8 V — a value that compares favorably with the corresponding value of 3.8 V of a state-of-the art cell containing an LiCoO2 cathode.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Lithium-ion batteries, Materials properties

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