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NASA contracts NEI Corporation to Develop Polymer Nanocomposites for Space and Defense Applications

by Editor1 last modified July 18, 2007 - 13:49

NASA has contracted NEI to produce coatings for Mars exploration equiment and also from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for transparent ballistic-resistant shields. NEI is a proven provider of nanoengineered materials. Both programs began in January 2006 have have initial funding of $170,000.

NASA contracts NEI Corporation to Develop Polymer Nanocomposites for Space and Defense Applications

The NASA program focuses on developing silicon nanocomposite coatings for airbags to be used on the Mars Exploration Rovers. It is the hope that the silicon polymers will reduce the weight of the airbags while maintaining or possibly increasing seam strength. Inflatable space structures, parachutes, and spacesuits are among the other space applications that could benefit from this technology. The program will help NEI offer new nanomaterial additives to commercial customers in transportation, specifically airbags, inflatable boats, and related applications.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense plans to utilize similar concepts as those put forth by NASA, however, they will target the ballistic resistance market. Under current situations, ballistic protection in transparent surface shields and armor are provided by either thick sections of polymers or by laminated sheets of polymer and glass. In both cases, the weight of the shield is very heavy. Per NEI’s contract with the OSD, NEI will develop new nanocomposite structures that will deliver the desired ballistic resistance with significantly less weight that the current products.

The OSD program will utilize similar concepts as those employed for the NASA program, but will target the ballistic resistance market. Currently, ballistic protection in optically transparent surface shields and transparent armor is provided either by thick sections of polymers, or by laminated sheets of polymer and glass. In both cases, the weight of the shield is very high. Under the OSD contract, NEI will develop new nanocomposite structures that will deliver the desired ballistic resistance with significantly less weight than the current products.

These programs build upon NEI’s prior experience, which has shown that the addition of certain types of functionalized nanoparticles to commonly used thermoplastics such as PTFE and PVC, and to thermosets such as Polyurethane and Epoxy, leads to substantial improvements in wear resistance, tear strength, and modulus. Physical property enhancements have been achieved in both coatings and bulk materials.

According to Dr. Ganesh Skandan, NEI’s CEO, “These two programs will enable us to strengthen our existing core competency of creating functionalized nanomaterial additives for polymeric materials and will permit us to offer improved nanomaterial solutions to our commercial and government customers around the world”.