Multiscale Systems is an advanced materials and manufacturing firm commercializing mechanical metamaterial technology. Conventional materials have properties (strength, modulus, density, etc.) directly dependent on their molecular/chemical composition. In contrast, the properties of metamaterials are defined by their geometric and structural design. A common example in aerospace construction where structure is used to modify the properties of a base material is honeycomb. This well-known material exemplifies how geometric design can reduce weight while retaining unidirectional load-bearing capabilities. Contemporary metamaterial design leads to geometric patterning with greater 3D complexity and a corresponding increase of multifunctional capabilities. Consistent with the ISSNL’s mission to conduct research for Earth benefit in space, this proposed SBIR effort seeks to conduct accelerated aging experiments to understand how products developed with metamaterials will perform over time. The insights derived from this research will have a durable commercial effect since it will enable us to quantitatively predict the expected lifetime of these metamaterial-enhanced products. The Phase I effort seeks to conduct all necessary on-ground preliminary work (including design, fabrication, and characterization) leading to Phase II in-orbit experiments. Phase II will utilize existing ISSNL assets and launch services to expose two batches of samples to the austere conditions of space for 6 and 12 months to induce accelerated aging. These samples will be characterized and compared to ground-based controls fabricated during Phase I to quantify how and over what time scale: (1) base material properties degrade; and (2) metamaterial properties degrade. We anticipate the data will reveal distinct outcomes along two failure pathways, which ultimately will have broad impact on our commercialization of this advanced materials technology.
Mechanical metamaterials have potential NASA applications wherever lightweight multifunctional materials are needed. This includes: development of Lunar Rover technologies including ultra-lightweight lander system for protection from impact forces; development of materials-based solutions for physical protection during planetary exploration (Moon to Mars Campaign); and development of materials manufacturable in-space or on-site for protected habitable spaces on manned missions or for use in extreme environments (Moon to Mars Campaign).
Mechanical metamaterials have potential non-NASA commercialization opportunities in: lightweight structural materials for future mobility: advanced materials for defense (USAF/Lockheed Martin/Boeing dual-use applications); vehicle armor for US Soldier protection (US Army dual-use applications); and low-cost energy-efficient components in cyber-physical and IoT devices.