A document proposes self-deploying storage tanks, based on the cold elastic hibernated memory (CHEM) concept, to be used on remote planets. The CHEM concept, described in previous NASA Tech Briefs articles, involves the use of open-cell shape-memory-polymer (SMP) foam sandwich structures to make lightweight, space-deployable structures that can be compressed for storage and can later be expanded, then rigidified for use.

A tank according to the proposal would be made of multiple SMP layers (of which at least one could be an SMP foam). The tank would be fabricated at full size in the rigid, deployed condition at ambient temperature, the SMP material(s) having been chosen so that ambient temperature would be below the SMP glass-transition temperature (Tg). The tank would then be warmed to a temperature above Tg, where it would be compacted and packaged, then cooled to below Tg and kept there during launch and transport to a distant planet.

At the assigned position on the planet, the compacted tank would be heated above Tg by the solar radiation making it rebound to its original size and shape. Finally, the tank would be rigidified through natural cooling to below Tg in the planetary ambient environment.

This work was done by Witold Sokolowski and Kaushik Bhattacharya of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
CHEM-Based Self-Deploying Planetary Storage Tanks

(reference NPO-43479) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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