Organic matrix composite materials have the potential for a significant mass reduction compared to metallic materials for aircraft and spacecraft, and have been a NASA focus for many years. The major technology drivers for these applications include large-scale composites manufacturing, composite damage tolerance and detection, and primary structure durability. Successful composite technologies will demonstrate concepts with reduced weight and cost with no loss in performance when compared to technologies for metallic concepts.
The aerospace community has fully accepted composite technology in principle, but its utilization continues to lag its potential application largely because of cost or uncertain safety issues. NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) has been a pioneer in the development of advanced aerospace composites and continues to seek new partnerships to bring these technologies to optimum use levels. In some cases, NASA inventions or partner inventions may already offer promise for early solutions, but are not fully developed. We are interested in possible cost-shared co-development of selected technology of mutual interest.
Specific examples of improvements needed/partnership opportunities are as follows:
- The development of integrated, multifunctional, self-sensing, self-repairing structures will enable the next generation of lightweight, reliable, and damage- tolerant aerospace vehicle designs. Prototype multifunctional composite structures are sought to meet these needs, as are concepts for their analytical and experimental interrogation. Specifically, structural and material concepts are sought to enable in situ monitoring and repair of service damage (e.g., cracks, delamination) to improve structural durability and enhance safe operation of aerospace structural systems.
- NDE technologies are sought for the nondestructive characterization of both as-produced and age-related degradation in complex composite materials. Innovative and novel approaches to using NDE technologies to measure properties related to material aging (i.e. thermal diffusivity, elastic constants, density, micro-crack formation, fiber buckling, breakage etc.) are sought. Our interests include complex composite material systems, adhesively bonded/ built-up and/or polymer-matrix composite sandwich structures.
- Advances in composite radiation shielding materials and structures technologies are needed to protect humans from the hazards of space radiation during NASA missions. The innovative materials systems should have radiation shielding effectiveness approaching that of polyethylene, for an equivalent areal density (grams per square centimeter).