NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X2.04-8537
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Cryogenic Propellant Depots
PROPOSAL TITLE: Carbon/Liquid Crystal Polymer Prepreg for Cryogenic and High-Temp Applications

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
32 Cummings Park
Woburn, MA 01801-2122

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Pavel Bystricky
32 Cummings Park
Woburn, MA 01801-2122

KaZaK Composites proposes to develop a pultrusion process to produce carbon fiber / liquid crystal polymer (LCP) prepreg, a first for this category of materials and a critical development for its inclusion in new high performance composite materials. Until now, commercially available LCPs were not suitable for RTM or RFI carbon fiber composite processing. LKX1215 is a novel thermosetting LCP with excellent mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties, in particular low moisture pickup and low outgassing. Its relatively low melt viscosity and ability to cross-link at temperatures above 310oC make it a prime candidate resin for processing into carbon fiber prepreg. Preliminary work by KaZaK on LKX1215 suggests this material is well suited to continuous carbon fiber reinforcement. The prepreg material developed by KaZaK under the proposed program will be characterized in terms of physical, microstructural, and mechanical properties. Development of techniques for prepreg processing into cured composite laminates and characterization of the mechanical properties of the resulting composite laminates will also be an important part of the proposed program. At the conclusion of Phase I, KaZaK will have developed and demonstrated a previously unavailable process for making carbon fiber composite material for a wide range of cryogenic and high-temperature applications.

The LCP targeted here was developed by NASA for carbon fiber composite based liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen cryogenic fuel tanks for next generation reusable launch vehicles (in which tanks account for up to 70% of the dry weight). Carbon fiber / LCP composites should also be suitable for many space-based applications where high dimensional stability and excellent thermo-mechanical properties are required. This material's low outgassing may solve previously insurmountable barriers to use of composites for applications involving many spacecraft systems (e.g. reducing fouling of sensitive optics or providing the required dimensional stability for X-ray optics through reduced moisture emission).

The proposed composites will be attractive for hybrid fuel vehicles (body panels, fuel tanks, fuel cell membranes) and in microelectronics where low CTE is required (chip housing, flex circuits). The material's low outgassing properties and chemical resistance make it a good candidate for use in clean rooms, food processing, and drug manufacturing facilities, i.e. difficult environments for conventional composites and stainless steel. LCP prepreg can advance the application of composites in the oil production industry, where conventional composites fail to survive. The exceptional thermal and high strength to weight properties make this material an excellent candidate for metal replacement applications.