High Volume Fraction Carbon Nanotube Composites for Aerospace Applications

E.J. Siochi, J-W. Kim, G. Sauti, R.J. Cano, R.A. Wincheski, J.G. Ratcliffe, M. Czabaj
NASA Langley Research Center,
United States

Keywords: high strength carbon nanotube composites


Reported mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) at the nanoscale suggest their potential to enable significantly lighter structures of interest in space applications. However, their utility depends on the retention of these properties in bulk material available in formats that permit practical fabrication of large structures. Although the material is now available in large quantities that permit the development of manufacturing processes, the retention of properties that make these materials attractive on the nanoscale has been a challenge in large assemblies of CNTs. The work to be presented summarizes recent progress made to produce carbon nanotube composites with specific tensile properties that begin to rival those of carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites. These advances were achieved in nanocomposites where the carbon nanotube content was greater than 70% by weight. Processing methods explored to yield these results will be discussed, as well as characterization and test methods developed to provide insight on the factors that contribute to enhanced tensile properties. Technology maturation was guided by the parallel advancements in computational modeling tools to aid in the interpretation of experimental data. This study was geared towards the demonstration of a CNT composite overwrapped pressure vessel that will be flight tested in 2016.