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Multifunctional Polyolefin Matrix Composite Structures, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Polyethylene, and ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) in particular, is an outstanding material for radiation shielding in the sense that its extraordinarily high hydrogen content both minimizes the production of secondary ions during exposure to energetic radiation and captures neutrons. Its low density and high wear resistance also make it attractive for the structures of manned spacecraft and extraterrestrial habitats. However, its use in structures is limited by flammability and poor mechanical properties under load compared to other structural materials. Composites with UHMWPE are problematic because load is not easily transferred to or from UHMWPE, and because its melt state is too viscous to infiltrate fiber preforms. In this Phase I project, TDA will apply its recent advances in composite manufacturing to create a UHMWPE-matrix composite that has good load transfer to a creep-mitigating continuous fiber reinforcement. Such a composite will not only have outstanding radiation shielding properties, but also have sufficient mechanical properties to be useful as a structural material. More »

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