As a premier global high-performance silicones and specialties company, Momentive creates products that improve quality of life for people and enable a more sustainable future. Our vast portfolio of solutions propels our customers’ businesses forward, driving performance from dusk to dawn, across the globe and even into the universe. Specifically, room temperature vulcanization (RTV) silicones play a key role in assembling, bonding, insulating, and protecting critical components in aerospace and aviation applications. In this interview, Thanos Yiagopoulos, Chief Technology Officer of Momentive Performance Materials, discusses how engineers can determine the best product for their application.

Tech Briefs: How long have Momentive’s silicone solutions been supporting America’s space efforts?

Thanos Yiagopoulos: Momentive – previously known as GE Silicones – has been serving America’s space efforts since the first ceramic thermal protection tiles were developed. We are proud to have served every U.S. manned space mission from the late 1960s to today. Through the course of that trajectory, we've been evolving the way we approach this industry. We’ve had to adapt the way we view this industry holistically and the way we position ourselves to support unmet needs that are rapidly developing in this space.

Thanos Yiagopoulos, CTO, Momentive Performance Materials
Thanos Yiagopoulos, CTO, Momentive Performance Materials

TB: What is Momentive doing to respond to the rapid innovation rate of new space customers?

Yiagopoulos: We follow an established stage gate innovation model that works well to respond to customers that may know they have a need but they don’t know exactly what the solution should be. We know how to translate the needs of the customer so that we can develop the right material in the right formulation for their needs.

The new generation of aerospace customers is following proven business models similar to the electronics and automotive markets. Startup firms are moving quickly to make material decisions. In response to the rapid pace of innovation, Momentive has built dedicated cross-functional teams trained in specific market segments, like aerospace and aviation. We have an ecosystem that helps us do the right analytics and customer specific testing – from the material, to the process, to the datasets – and also understand how we can scale those materials to the specification of the customer and to the regulatory requirements that govern this industry.

TB: How can Momentive enable higher-volume production of space vehicles?

Yiagopoulos: One of the key challenges for manufacturers is creating components that can be reused. This depends on having sealants that can stand up to extreme temperature fluctuations. To that end, we are pioneering new RTV silicone sealants, adhesives, and thermal protection systems with enhanced temperature and chemical resistance, which can improve durability.

Using room-temperature-cure RTV adhesives and sealants also helps to streamline and optimize the manufacturing process. This helps manufacturers to save time and resources during component assembly, maintenance, and repairs.

We also have a good understanding of how to create the framework to produce those materials so in the future as volumes increase, we can meet that increasing demand through new processing innovations. From a process perspective, Momentive has invested heavily in facilities and systems to enable us to offer higher volumes for the growing market.

TB: Why use silicones in space, defense, and aviation?

Yiagopoulos: The inherent properties of RTV silicones from Momentive make them excellent candidates for critical applications. They offer excellent thermal performance – maintaining their performance and flexibility over a wide range of temperature extremes. The low outgassing performance helps to ensure a consistent vacuum-tight seal and protection of vital components and cargo against the elements in extreme conditions.

Silicones are resistant to vibration, shock, and UV. In space, they are used in everything from crew capsules to satellites and from launch structures to launch vehicles. In aviation and UAV use, silicone products can provide environmental protection, increase hardware reliability, improve sensor performance, and extend component life.

TB: How has Momentive’s portfolio evolved over the past decade?

Yiagopoulos: Over the past decade, we have developed an extensive low outgassing silicones offering, to the point that our latest products lose less than 1% of mass and produce less than 0.1% volatile condensable materials in a vacuum, meeting ASTM E595. These are especially valuable properties when it comes to crew capsules, satellites, space exploration vehicles and habitats and when coating advanced, critical equipment.

We have also developed a new generation of thermal management solutions that offer the right levels of conductivity and insulation in challenging aerospace, aviation, and military applications. We’ve also made real progress in creating silicone solutions with excellent chemical resistance and in extending the longevity of our solutions so that they can perform in components that could be reused later.

TB: How do engineers determine the best material to use?

Yiagopoulos: As this industry evolves, it will be very difficult, or impossible, to pick materials from a single catalog. There are many selection tools and material databases available online but the best way is to work with your supplier’s technical team.

At Momentive, we have an extensive technical team available 24 hours a day to answer questions. We work collaboratively with customers to find the right solutions, from conducting customer specific testing to brainstorming ideas to solve individual challenges.

An edited version of this interview appeared in the November 2021 issue of Tech Briefs. Contact Momentive at go.momentive.com/space .