Throughout NASA’s technology roadmap the need for improved materials is called out in nearly all Technology Areas and are highlighted as the enablers behind the structures, devices, vehicles, power, life support, propulsion, entry, and many other systems that NASA develops and uses to fulfill its missions. This need is evident in the next-generation aerospace programs, which demand lightweight composite materials that can endure higher service temperatures in structural and hot section components. New materials are required with improved properties, combinations of properties and reliability. While composite materials have become ubiquitous in aerospace structures over the past decade, they have the major limitation that they are prove to delamination through interlaminar cracking. Trimer Technologies recently identified a unique interlaminar reinforcement technology based on graphene applied to the surface of a prepreg which through preliminary testing has been shown to increase the Mode II fracture toughness of IM7/8552 prepreg by 42% compared to bare prepreg. This material enhancement is achieved using a low-cost approach which is scalable and can be applied directly to the surface of existing prepregs or formed and applied in line with filament winding or automated tow placement procedures. The research proposed will study the graphene formation, demonstrate roll-to-roll manufacturing and optimize the graphene structure to maximize the strength and toughness of fiber reinforced composites. The proposed approach offers a novel, scalable and low-cost method to increase the toughness of composite materials with thermally stable and high strength graphene. Moreover, the superior electrical and thermal properties of graphene may be leveraged to reduce manufacturing costs and add multifunctionality.
NASA’s Technology Roadmap calls for advanced composite materials that are low cost yet offer improved mechanical strength and toughness to maximize the performance of next generation of aerospace structures. This research will directly address this goal through a new low-cost technique to increase interlaminar strength and toughness of polymer matrix composites. Because composites are being utilized across NASA’s mission, the technology proposed here has clear potential to impact a wide range of aerospace applications.
The quality of the interlaminar region is one of the most important factors in the design of a fiber-reinforced composite and will be address in this SBIR. With commercial composite applications ranging from wind turbines to prosthetics and vehicles, the technology will provide a means for increasing material durability and failure resistance, making composites more economical and sustainable.