NASA’s Global Exploration Roadmap and the Space Policy Directive detail NASA’s plans for future human-rated space missions and the need for power distribution to bases on the lunar surface and eventually Mars. In order to enable high power (>100kW) and longer distribution systems on the surface of the moon or Mars, NASA is in need of low mass insulating materials which offer greater dielectric strength and operate in extreme temperature environments. Wires are often coated with a thin layer of acrylic, polyurethane, polyester imide or polyamide imide to provide insulation and allow them to operate at high voltage, however these materials cannot withstand the high temperatures required for space applications. When thermal stability is required, polyimides or fluorinated polymers such as PTFE are used, however these materials are costly, difficult to coat and in the case of fluorinated polymers exhibit poor adhesion to the wire. The proposed SBIR will develop a thermosetting resin that offers low cost, high glass transition temperature, excellent adhesion to metallic substrates and greatly improved dielectric strength over currently used enamels. Furthermore, the resin has a low processing viscosity which can allow thin insulation layers and can be cured in seconds, therefore, enabling rapid manufacture of lighter weight wire that can withstand extreme temperatures. While current high Tg resins cost hundreds of dollars per pound, Trimer’s resin can be produced for dollars a pound. In addition to the low cost, which is not the primary driver for aerospace materials, Trimer’s material exhibits excellent processability and mechanical properties and was recently measured to have a dielectric strength over 760 MV/m which is more than double polyimides. Ultimately, the proposed polymer has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of magnet wire and produced thermally stable coatings which can be applied for future human-rated space missions.
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 systems that NASA develops and uses to fulfill its missions. This need is evident throughout the next-generation space missions, which require insulators with greater dielectric strength and thermally stability for the wiring used in power transmission as well as motors, high voltage electronics and the encapsulation of electrical components.
The market for electromagnetic systems is experiencing significant growth, driven by electric vehicles and wind power as well as increasing wealth in emerging economies. Our commercialization efforts will seek to capitalize upon the low cost to produce polymers with high thermal stability and dielectric strength to market the resin in a range of industrial power applications.