Research Fund to Improve Strength of Carbon Nanotube Materials for Satellite Applications

The US Department of Defense issues $4.5 million fund over a four-year period to the scientists at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science for reinforcing carbon nanotube sheets and yarns for satellite technology applications.

Carbon nanotubes’ strength gets deteriorated by 1% from their initial value when used in a composite. The density of carbon nanotube yarns spun out from carbon nanotube fibers is 20% lesser than the theoretical value. Also, the carbon nanotube fibers may wear out during the application of tension, as they are bonded together by comparatively weaker forces.

The UCLA research team headed by Larry Carlson, who serves as UCLA Engineering’s Director of New Materials and Head of Easton Institute of Technology Advancement of UCLA, will work to rectify these technical problems of carbon nanotube sheets and yarns to make them 10 fold stronger.

By reducing a staellite’s weight by just one pound, fuel worth $75,000 can be saved. Since carbon nanotube materials offer superior electrical protection and heat conduction, they can eliminate or reduce the need of other support systems, which in turn decreases the overall mass of a satellite.

The UCLA research team intends to utilize atmospheric pressure plasma to selectively break individual carbon bonds of carbon nanotubes, while maintaining their overall strength. It will also utilize an innovative resin comprising small sub-nanoscale rings that can attach between all the nanotubes rather than covering the lengthy molecules over the surface. The resin can flow easily, as its viscosity value is comparable to that of water.

The resin can control the reaction well to produce a cured, extremely tough resin within the structure. The team will also bind unique organic molecules that can attach to resin on one side and carbon bonds on the other. It will also strengthen the bonding between the fibers by attaching some kinds of atoms with the carbon nanotubes.


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