Tech Briefs

A Versatile Three-Dimensional Printing Approach

This technology can generate integrated circuits, electrical connectors, supercapacitors, and flow cell batteries.NASA has developed a versatile method and associated apparatus for constructing and using a conductive filament in various applications of 3D printing. It uses an attractive polymer formulation, which exhibits low melting temperature even when combined with conductive material, as the printing filament material. It may be used with a commercial 3D printer to generate custom 3D conductive geometries, such as integrated circuitries, electrical connectors, supercapacitors, and flow cell batteries. This invention can be used to create conductive, piezoelectric, or multifunctional materials using three-dimensional printing, with relatively low melt or glass transition temperatures. This invention should be useful wherever such materials are needed, with modest fabrication costs.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Puncture-Healing Thermoplastic Resin Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Composites

This technology self-repairs following low- to mid-velocity impacts. A through-transmission C-scan of the healable composite panel shows the material post-impact (top) and post-healing cycle (bottom). NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed carbon fiber reinforced composites with self-healing properties. The initiation and propagation of damage to carbon composites, such as in aircraft structural components, results in component failure. Typical structural repairs result in damaging practices, where material is ground away and holes are drilled to secure patches, which can act as new sites for damage. This technology exhibits effective self-repair that heals quickly following low- to mid-velocity impacts, while retaining structural integrity.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Improved Impact Toughness and Heat Treatment for Cast Aluminum

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center researchers have developed a new, stronger aluminum alloy, ideal for cast aluminum products that have powder or paint-baked thermal coatings. With advanced mechanical properties, the NASA-427 alloy shows greater tensile strength and increased ductility, providing substantial improvement in impact toughness. In addition, this alloy improves the thermal coating process by decreasing the time required for heat treatment. With improvements in both strength and processing time, use of the alloy provides reduced materials and production costs, lower product weight, and better product performance. The superior properties of NASA-427 can benefit many industries, including automotive, where it is particularly well suited for use in aluminum wheels.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Dynamically Variable Spot Size Laser System

Applications include aerospace engine repair, medical hardware manufacturing, plastic mold and die restoration, and jewelry manufacturing and repair.NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center developed the handheld laser torch, designed for welding and brazing metals, to repair hard-to-reach Space Shuttle engine nozzles. It incorporates various manual controls and changing lenses to allow the operator to adjust the laser’s power output in real time. The controls and lenses are designed to increase precision, portability, and maneuverability as compared to existing automated lasers and traditional welding techniques such as tungsten inert gas (TIG), metal inert gas (MIG), or gas-tungsten arc welding (GTAW) systems. Proximity sensors with automated shut-off switches also ensure a high level of safety for the user.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Adaptive Thermal Management System

This technology employs a unique way to autonomously regulate the temperature of a structure or vessel.NASA seeks to license the Adaptive Thermal Management System (ATMS) for use in commercial applications. Developed at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, the ATMS provides a way to regulate heat transfer and enable thermal management between two opposing surfaces in either direction. The system has the capability to adapt to provide conductive or insulative functionality depending on environmental conditions or applied stimuli. The ATMS can be designed for use in manufacturing, storage vessels, fluid transfer, aerospace and building architectures, and many other applications to reduce unwanted heat transfer, lower energy usage, or maintain environments at a specific temperature. The ATMS is part of NASA’s technology transfer program, which seeks to promote the commercial use of NASA-developed technologies.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Method of Bonding Dissimilar Materials

Elastic adhesive overcomes the problems associated with large differences in thermal expansion coefficients. An image of the Materials International Space Station Experiment-5 (MISSE-5) samples prior to launch shows a golden thermal blanket with flexible material samples attached. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a new method for bonding dissimilar materials using an elastic adhesive to permit the bond to withstand variations in temperature and pressure. Specifically, NASA uses this method to provide a >98% specular finish on composite materials that is proven capable of withstanding ultraviolet solar radiation exposure in a vacuum and thermal cycling from –115 °C to +65 °C, as well as meeting outgassing requirement limits of 1%.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Nanoencapsulated Aerogels Produced by Monomer Vapor Deposition and Polymerization

This technology provides a method for making strong and lightweight aerogels with insulating properties. The nano-encapsulated aerogel technology has the strength and insulation properties for many applications. The Johnson Space Center researched methods to coat aerogel insulation in order to make it better able to withstand vibration, mechanical compression and flexure, and other environmental damage. This NASA-developed nanoencapsulated aerogel technology is a method for increasing the strength of the aerogel through a coating process while maintaining its insulating properties. With this ruggedizing process, the coating of the aerogel reduces mechanical damage, enabling its practical use in products that might not be suitable with the more fragile aerogel. The basic coating can also shield it from adsorbing humidity or other gases, which could otherwise bind to the substance and change its properties. Functionalized coatings could be developed to adsorb certain gases if that is desired. Aerogel’s low density and extremely low thermal conductivity make it useful as a lightweight, volume-efficient insulation material. Encapsulating the aerogel expands its ability to be incorporated into products that are exposed to vibration and compression during manufacture, shipping, or use. It can also improve its flexibility, opening up a range of new product uses.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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