This program will develop an in-space material manufacturing approach to leverage the unique capabilities of the International Space Station. Specifically, one such, exemplar novel class of material, covetics (nano-carbon-infused metals), are inherently challenging to produce terrestrially but have great commercial potential due to their enhanced physicochemical properties as compared to conventional metals, such as high thermal (50% higher than Cu), high electrical conductivity (40% higher than 6061 Al), and high strength (30% higher yield strength than Cu). Therefore, Faraday Technology and the University of Texas in Dallas will develop a material manufacturing process to directly print these next generation covetic materials in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) via an electro-codeposition approach. This work will build on the University of Texas's direct Cu printing platform which has been demonstrated at pre-commercial scale the potential to print large area circuit board lines utilizing a localized pulse electrodeposited (L-PED) technique. Additionally, this work will build on Faraday’s electro-codeposition process activities that include depositing carbon materials into copper. In Phase I we will establish the viability of directly printing covetic materials by developing the direct write hardware and the electro-codeposition electrolytes to deposit electrochemically reduced carbon materials into a copper matrix in an orientation opposite or perpendicular to gravity such that we can demonstrate at the lab scale, the potential to form covetic materials with enhanced electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties. This demonstration would enable a preliminary market need assessment (Phase I) and zero gravity flight demonstration (Phase II), which could establish a commercial market for in-space manufacturing of these exciting covetic materials. If successful the results of the Phase I/II program will set the stage for LEO commercialization of this manufacturing process.
Next generation materials like covetics have the potential to meet many of NASA continual needs on-board the space station and within their spacecraft systems. These materials could be utilized to make spot structural repairs, be printed in to forms like electronic components (i.e., resistor or capacitors), or be utilized as heat exchange materials. Regardless, an approach to on-demand manufacturing of state of the art materials and components on-board the ISS has a wide commercial impact.
At the successful completion of this program, we envision our initial entry point for the technology will be the electronics industry (communications, computers, satellites, etc.) due to their need for lightweight high conductivity materials. The second market will focus on the transportation sectors, who strive for high strength to weights ratios.