Lightweight composite-material tanks with chemically resistant liners have been developed for storage of chemically reactive and/or unstable fluids — especially hydrogen peroxide. These tanks are similar, in some respects, to the ones described in — Lightweight Composite-Material Tanks for Cryogenic Liquids — (MFS-31379), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol.25, No.1 (January, 2001), page 58; however, the present tanks are fabricated by a different procedure and they do not incorporate insulation that would be needed to prevent boil-off of cryogenic fluids.The manufacture of a tank of this type begins with the fabrication of a reusable multisegmented aluminum mandrel in the shape and size of the desired interior volume. One or more segments of the mandrel can be aluminum bosses that will be incorporated into the tank as end fittings.
The mandrel is coated with a mold-release material. The mandrel is then heated to a temperature of about 400 °F (200 °C) and coated with a thermo-plastic liner material to the desired thickness [typically ≈15 mils (≈0.38 mm)] by thermal spraying. In the thermal-spraying process, the liner material in powder form is sprayed and heated to the melting temperature by a propane torch and the molten particles land on the mandrel.
The sprayed liner and mandrel are allowed to cool, then the outer surface of the liner is chemically and/or mechanically etched to enhance bonding of a composite overwrap. The etched liner is wrapped with multiple layers of an epoxy resin reinforced with graphite fibers; the wrapping can be done either by manual application of epoxy-impregnated graphite cloth or by winding of epoxy-impregnated filaments. The entire assembly is heated in an autoclave to cure the epoxy. After the curing process, the multisegmented mandrel is disassembled and removed from inside, leaving the finished tank.
If the tank is to be used for storing hydrogen peroxide, then the liner material should be fluorinated ethylene/propylene (FEP), and one or more FEP O ring(s) should be used in the aluminum end fitting(s). This choice of materials is dictated by experimental observations that pure aluminum and FEP are the only materials suitable for long-term storage of hydrogen peroxide and that other materials tend to catalyze the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water.
Other thermoplastic liner materials that are suitable for some applications include nylon 6 and polyethylene. The processing temperatures for nylon 6 are lower than those for FEP. Nylon 6 is compatible with propane, natural gas, and other petroleum-based fuels. Polyethylene is compatible with petroleum-based products and can be used for short-term storage of hydrogen peroxide.
This work was done by Thomas K. DeLay of Marshall Space Flight Center.
This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Patent Counsel, Marshall Space Flight Center, (256)544-0021. Refer to MFS-31401.