Project Summary

Proposal Number:95-1-0 4-3200

Project Title:Liquid Oxygen Compatible Coatings for Reusable Composite Cryogenic Tanks

Small Business Concern:
Foster-Miller, Inc.
350 Second Avenue
Waltham, MA 02154-1196

Research Institution:
Drexel University
Center for the Plasma Processing of Materials

Principal Investigator/Project Manager: Marvin Guiles

Technical Abstract:
The development of reusable launch vehicles will make access to space more affordable. To make these reusable vehicles feasible, however, structural weight must be reduced while safety and reliability must remain at a high level. A primary concern, therefore, is the safety and reliability of the large liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen tanks. Recent development in toughened cryogenic epoxies may make composite fabrication of the hydrogen tanks possible, but composite fabrication of the liquid oxygen tanks is still hampered due to the potential LOX incompatibility of the composite resins and the cost and weight of suitable liners. In response to this problem, Foster–Miller proposes to demonstrate an emerging technology for coating the inside of a large composite structure with a thin, LOX compatible polymer. NASA–MSFC has verified the LOX compatibility of the leading candidate polymers in Foster– Miller's cryotank liner system. Spray coating processes will be inexpensive, and the weight of the thin (~0.004 in.) coating will be minimal. During the proposed Phase I program, we will evaluate leading candidate polymers using state–of–the–art coating technologies, selecting one process and one polymer for further development in Phase II. Successful demonstration of this technology will enable the composite fabrication of reusable liquid oxygen tanks resulting in substantial weight savings.

Potential Commercial Applications:
The potential commercial applications of the proposed technology are extensive. The aerospace industry will benefit from the protective polymer coatings for aircraft and spacecraft, and thermal management coatings will reduce the load on spacecraft thermal control systems. The technology will find use in the private sector in automotive fuel tanks, and corrosion resistant coatings for transportation vehicles and structures.