NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 03- II E2.01-8915
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Structures and Materials
PROPOSAL TITLE: Structural Composites with Intrinsic Multifunctionality

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Michael D. Gilbert
EIC Laboratories, Inc., 111 Downey St.
Norwood, MA 02062-2612
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

Development of multifunctional, structural materials for applications in terrestrial and space-based platforms is proposed. The principle innovation is the development of an epoxy-based thermoset that undergoes a phase separation reaction during cure to form interpenetrating networks (IPN) of a structural thermoset (epoxy) phase and a second phase that is tailored to provide ancillary function. Both phases are co-continuous and nano-structured, having typical dimensions of 40-200nm. The second phase has controllable viscoelastic properties to provide mechanical damping and other strain-rate dependent behavior. Additional functionality is obtained by sequestering appropriate materials into the second phase. Examples include ionizable salts to provide ionic conductivity, reducible and oxidizable materials for power source applications and reactive species for composite self-repair. In the phase I, the IPN epoxy was used as a matrix for graphite fiber reinforced composites. Within this matrix material, a novel mechanism for vibration damping was revealed and reactive oligomers for self-repair were successfully incorporated without loss of reactivity. Internal electrochemical reactions, which can be used for electrical power generation and myriad other applications, were demonstrated. In the phase II, high performance IPN epoxies, capable of extended service at 150??C and above will be developed and optimized for vibration damping and self-repair functionality.

The usefulness of the multifunctional composites in defense-related applications for space and ground-based observation and weapons systems is obvious. Vibration damping, power storage and self-repair are properties sought in many structural materials used in these systems. Vibration damping and self-repair are also attractive properties for composites used in commercial aircraft, automobiles and other vehicles. Successful development of a structural composite with either of these features should have a significant value. Other industries, such as shipbuilding and manufactured heavy machinery are also expected to benefit from the availability of the proposed multifunctional composites.

NASA deploys or anticipates deploying a variety of space and terrestrial vehicles and systems for earth exploration, unmanned planetary exploration and manned exploration of space. These include launch vehicles, nanosats, high altitude balloons, Martian rovers, International Space Station, Shuttle, space observing satellites (eg. HST) and others. All these systems employ or will employ composite materials in one form or another. All will benefit from weight savings, design flexibility and new functions available in structural composites with multifunctional thermoset matrices that are intrinsically vibration damping, self-repairing or provide power storage capabilities.