The most direct benefit to non-NASA applications for this technology is the development of high strength to weight ratio airframe materials for commercial airliners. This includes, but is not limited to: regional jets, long-haul jets, light jets, and very light jets. The inclusion of composites in commercial aircraft can improve the flight performance characteristics, such as range, payload, speed, and decreased fuel consumption. Other commercial sectors that currently use carbon fiber composites are marine, automotive, and recreational equipment. This proposed work targets reducing composite cost, which will help increase their implementation in these markets.
The primary NASA application for the microwave processed multifunctional polymer matrix composites is in structural aerospace components, where lighter weight, higher strength, and lower cost parts are required. The major aerospace areas include aircraft, helicopters, missiles, and spacecraft. Composites are the primary candidates for components used in space travel since they offer 10-15% better fuel efficiency, reduction of weight, easy integration, increased durability translating to longer structural life, and improved aerodynamic efficiency and performance. The polymer composites developed in this program will specifically target launch vehicles and in-space structural component applications.