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Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

Prototype Self Sensing, Intelligent Multifunctional Nano-enhanced Structures

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Prototype Self Sensing, Intelligent Multifunctional Nano-enhanced Structures

SmallSats and CubeSats are the latest generation of small, lightweight spacecraft envisioned to accomplish significant scientific missions.  In view of the limited mass, volume and power resources available, optimized electronics packaging at the component, subsystem and spacecraft levels present significant design constraints.   Prototype Self, Sensing Intelligent Multifunctional Nano-enhanced Multi-Functional Structures is a multi-year effort to develop appropriate hardware to enable board level 3D electronics packaging as well as advanced thermal control for power electronics, RF subsystems and solar panels.

Electronics packaging is a complex technology development issue that requires coordinated optimized solutions at the component (chip), subsystem (board) and system (spacecraft/instrument) levels.  The proposed effort will develop intelligent structural-thermal capabilities embedded into a multi-functional structure.  Embedded electrohydrodynamic (EHD) thermal control subsystem will enable lighter, more compact packaging capable of greater heat transport than the current state of the art (conduction and radiation).  Future spacecraft electronics subsystems may contain electronics components directly integrated into the board at a greater component density (more components) than currently possible due to thermal constraints. This structure will ultimately reduce the number of boards required (mass and volume savings). Furthermore, convective, two-phase embedded thermal control subsystems significantly reduce the overall thermal resistance and will allow remote heat rejection at higher temperatures than those currently attained by electronics thermal control packages.  The spacecraft realizes significant mass and volume savings with smaller, more effective radiators.


Additive manufacturing techniques are advanced manufacturing processes that build up a structure or device layer by layer.  Additive manufacturing processes have not yet been applied to multifunctional structure applications.  The self-sensing thermal/strain system will require a material with homogenous electrical and thermal properties as temperature and strain will be measured using resistivity.  Furthermore, the thermal subsystem will require small channel hydraulic diameters.   Each of these subsystems will be directly integrated at the ‘layer’ level determined to provide for optimal structural and thermal performance.   Thus, candidate materials include both metals and nano-enhanced polymers whose properties can be engineered to meet project requirements. These requirements are ideal for multifunctional structures: strict manufacturing tolerances, small-scale features, and advanced materials.  The investigation at hand will advance additive manufacturing techniques and processes by combining self-sensing (temperature-stress/strain), complex embedded thermal hardware (EHD electrodes), structural capabilities, wiring board and grounding plane into a single, homogenous device.

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Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

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