A multi-functional composite laminate material has been developed for structural and thermal applications for use in durable cryogenic fuel tanks for transportation vehicles and/or in the construction of habitats. The technology focuses on aerogel and fiber composites integrated into unique layups with thermal and mechanical energy absorption capabilities. The lightweight laminate composite system has multi-functionality for both high- and low-temperature applications. Combining structural and thermal attributes, the innovation is a lightweight aerogel-fiber laminate composite system with good compressive strength, tailorable for impact and acoustic energy absorption, reduced heat transfer, and/or fire barrier properties.

These laminate composite materials can be utilized in applications such as large structures, specialized components, human habitats, flight crew cabins, fluid process systems, scientific apparatus, piping, tanks, umbilical devices, access structures, airframes, vehicle shrouds, and many other applications. Building on other thermal materials development, work began in 2009 on a NASA need for new multi-functional fiber composite materials that can meet both structural and thermal requirements with increased impact resistance. The aerogel-infused fiber composite laminate system was first developed in the Polymer Science and Technology Laboratory and Cryogenics Test Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center.

The novel laminate composite and its construction can utilize a wide range of epoxy resins. The panel laminate system can be tailored by varying fiber choice (examples include polyester, carbon, Kevlar®, Spectra®, or Innegra™ and combinations thereof), aerogel panel type and thickness, and overall layup configuration. The combination of materials may be customized to achieve a range of desired properties in the resulting laminate system. Tailoring of hybrid laminate composite architecture allows for a 25 to 75% reduction in heat transfer compared to a fiber-only composite system.

The structural composite panel material may find use in applications where lightweight, high-strength laminates with multifunctional properties such as thermal insulation, impact resistance, mechanical energy absorption, and/or acoustic energy dampening are desired. Such applications may include the aerospace, automotive, boating, building materials, liquid natural gas, sporting equipment, and military protective gear industries.

This work was done by Martha K. Williams, James E. Fesmire, and Luke Roberson of Kennedy Space Center, and Judith McFall of ASRC Aerospace Corporation. For further information, contact the Kennedy Technology Transfer Office at (321) 867-7171. Refer to KSC-13595.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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