Johnson Space Center Carbon Nanotube Project

The JSC Carbon Nanotube Project is focused on developing bulk nanotube production, purification and application of Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes (SWNT's). Production techniques being investigated are pulsed laser vaporization (PLV), arc discharge and a gas phase process (HiPco) in collaboration with Rice University.

The goal of our project is to develop nanotube applications for use in human space exploration. Because of their superior strength-to-weight ratio, SWNT composites are expected to reduce spacecraft weight by 50% or more. Other exploration applications include energy storage, life support systems, thermal materials, nanoelectronics, nanosensors, electrostatic discharge materials, and biomedical applications.

JSC's distinctive effort is the study of nanotube growth using the PLV facility. Our world class diagnostic facility enables the study of the plasma plume during nanotube production to understand nanotube formation processes and yield optimization techniques. After production, nanotube quality, diameter and purity are characterized by Raman spectroscopy, SEM, TEM, TGA, and UV/VIS/NIR spectral analyses.

SWNT technology applications are also supported through the Small Business Innovative Research Program. These technologies include ultracapacitors and structural composite materials. These and other fields will likely be revolutionized due to the size and properties of nanotubes. Additional innovative applications will soon become evident as nanotechnology continues to mature.

JSC Nanotube Project Goals

  1. Ensure a reliable source of nanotubes with controlled properties (length, purity, diameter, chirality) using diagnostics, parametric studies, and modeling to understand and improve processes.
  2. Develop and employ characterization techniques to examine nanotubes and nanoscale materials.
  3. Develop processing methods for nanotubes from various sources to enhance structural, thermal, electrical, and chemical properties.
  4. Conduct initial studies or sponsor development of applications of nanoscale materials.
  5. Establish a scientific network of academic, industry, and government partners to leverage resources and disseminate knowledge.

Source: NASA

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