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Advanced Ablative Insulators and Methods of Making Them

Reinforced, filled silicones and carbon phenolics are laser-milled to final shapes. Advanced ablative (more specifically, charring) materials that provide temporary protection against high temperatures, and advanced methods of designing and manufacturing insulators based on these materials, are undergoing development. These materials and methods were conceived in an effort to replace the traditional thermal- protection systems (TPSs) of reentry spacecraft with robust, lightweight, better-performing TPSs that can be designed and manufactured more rapidly and at lower cost. These materials and methods could also be used to make improved TPSs for general aerospace, military, and industrial applications.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Nonflammable, Hydrophobic Aerogel Composites for Insulation

Aerogel composites that are both nonflammable and hydrophobic have been developed for use as lightweight thermal- insulation materials for cryogenic systems. Aerogels are well known in the industry for their effectiveness as thermal insulators under cryogenic conditions, but the treatments used heretofore to render them hydrophobic also make them flammable. Nonflammability would make it safer to use aerogel insulation, especially in oxygen-rich environments and on cryogenic systems that contain liquid oxygen.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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PETIs as High-Temperature Resin-Transfer-Molding Materials

PETI-matrix/carbon-fiber composites made by resin-transfer molding have excellent properties. Compositions of, and processes for fabricating, high-temperature composite materials from phenylethynyl-terminated imide (PETI) oligomers by resin-transfer molding (RTM) and resin infusion have been developed. Composites having a combination of excellent mechanical properties and long-term high-temperature stability have been readily fabricated. These materials are particularly useful for the fabrication of high-temperature structures for jet-engine components, structural components on high-speed aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Diamond-Coated Carbon Nanotubes for Efficient Field Emission

Field-emission cathodes containing arrays of carbon nanotubes coated with diamond or diamondlike carbon (DLC) are undergoing development. Multiwalled carbon nanotubes have been shown to perform well as electron field emitters. The idea underlying the present development is that by coating carbon nanotubes with wideband gap materials like diamond or DLC, one could reduce effective work functions, thereby reducing threshold electric-field levels for field emission of electrons and, hence, improving cathode performance. To demonstrate feasibility, experimental cathodes were fabricated by (1) covering metal bases with carbon nanotubes bound to the bases by an electrically conductive binder and (2) coating the nanotubes, variously, with diamond or DLC by plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition. In tests, the threshold electric-field levels for emission of electrons were reduced by as much as 40 percent, relative to those of uncoated nanotube cathodes. Coating with diamond or DLC could also make field emission-cathodes operate more stably by helping to prevent evaporation of carbon from nanotubes in the event of overheating of the cathodes. Cathodes of this type are expected to be useful principally as electron sources for cathode-ray tubes and flatpanel displays.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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High-Performance Polymers Having Low Melt Viscosities

Mixtures of differently shaped molecules have properties superior to the corresponding linear polymers. High-performance polymers that have improved processing characteristics, and a method of making them, have been invented. One of the improved characteristics is low (relative to corresponding prior polymers) melt viscosities at given temperatures. This characteristic makes it possible to utilize such processes as resin transfer molding and resin-film infusion and to perform autoclave processing at lower temperatures and/or pressures. Another improved characteristic is larger processing windows — that is, longer times at low viscosities. Other improved characteristics include increased solubility of uncured polymer precursors that contain reactive groups, greater densities of cross-links in cured polymers, improved mechanical properties of the cured polymers, and greater resistance of the cured polymers to chemical attack.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Low-Density, Aerogel-Filled Thermal- Insulation Tiles

Aerogel fillings have been investigated in a continuing effort to develop low-density thermal-insulation tiles that, relative to prior such tiles, have greater dimensional stability (especially less shrinkage), equal or lower thermal conductivity, and greater strength and durability. In preparation for laboratory tests of dimensional and thermal stability, prototypes of aerogel-filled versions of recently developed low-density tiles have been fabricated by impregnating such tiles to various depths with aerogel formations ranging in density from 1.5 to 5.6

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Glass Frit Filters for Collecting Metal

Filter disks made of glass frit have been found to be effective as means of high throughput collection of metal oxide particles, ranging in size from a few to a few hundred nanometers, produced in gas phase condensation reactors. In a typical application, a filter is placed downstream of the reactor and a valve is used to regulate the flow of reactor exhaust through the filter. The exhaust stream includes a carrier gas, particles, byproducts, and unreacted particle precursor gas. The filter selectively traps the particles while allowing the carrier gas, the byproducts, and, in some cases, the unreacted precursor, to flow through unaffected. Although the pores in the filters are much larger than the particles, the particles are nevertheless trapped to a high degree: Anecdotal information from an experiment indicates that 6-nm-diameter particles of MnO2 were trapped with >99-percent effectiveness by a filtering device comprising a glass-frit disk having pores 70 to 100 µm wide immobilized in an 8-cm-diameter glass tube equipped with a simple twist valve at its downstream end.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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