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Nano-casted Metal Oxide Aerogels as Dual Purpose Structural Components for Space ExplorationNASA missions and space exploration rely on strong, ultra lightweight materials. Such materials are needed for building up past and present space vehicles such as the Sojourner Rover (1997) or the two MERs (2003), but also for a number of components and/or systems including thermal insulators, Solar Sails, Rigid Aeroshells, and Ballutes. The purpose of my internship here at Glenn Research Center is to make dual purpose materials; materials that in addition to being lightweight have electronic, photophysical and magnetic properties and, therefore, act as electronic components and sensors as well as structural components. One type of ultra lightweight material of great interest is aerogels, which have densities ranging from 0.003 g/cc to 0.8 g/cc . However, aerogels are extremely fragile and, as a result, have limited practical applications. Recently, Glenn Research Center has developed a process of nano-casting polymers onto the inorganic network of silica-based aerogels increasing the strength 300 fold while only increasing the density 3 fold. By combining the process of nano-casting polymers with inorganic oxide networks other than silica, we are actively pursuing lightweight dual purpose materials. To date, thirty different inorganic oxide aerogels have been prepared using either standard sol-gel chemistry or a non-alkoxide method involving metal chloride precursors and an epoxide; epichlorohydrin, propylene oxide or trimethylene oxide, as proton scavengers. More importantly, preliminary investigations show that the residual surface hydroxyl groups on each of these inorganic oxide aerogels can be successfully crosslinked with urethane. In addition to characterizing physical and mechanical properties such as density, strength and flexibility, each of these metal oxide aerogels are being characterized for thermal and electronic conductivity and magnetic and optical properties.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Vassilaras, Plousia E.
(Baldwin-Wallace Coll. Berea, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2004
Publication Information
Publication: Research Symposium I
Subject Category
Nonmetallic Materials
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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