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Effect of X-Rays on the Mechanical Properties of Aluminized FEP Teflon(trademark)Pieces of the multilayer insulation (MLI) that is integral to the thermal control of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have been returned by two servicing missions after 3.6 and 6.8 years in orbit. They reveal that the outer layer, which is made from 5 mil (0.13 mm) thick aluminized fluorinated ethylenepropylene (FEP) Teflon. has become severely embrittled. Although possible agents of this embrittlement include electromagnetic radiation across the entire solar spectrum, trapped particle radiation, atomic oxygen, and thermal cycling, intensive investigations have not yielded unambiguous causes. Previous studies utilizing monoenergetic photons in the 69-1900 eV range did not cause significant embrittlement, even at much higher doses than were experienced by the HST MLI. Neither did x-rays in the 3 to 10 keV range generated in a modified electron bean evaporator. An antidotal aluminized FEP sample that was exposed to an intensive dose from unfiltered Mo x-ray radiation from a rotating anode generator, however, did show the requisite embrittlement. Thus, a study was undertaken to determine the effects of x-ray exposure on the embrittlement of aluminized FEP in hopes that it might elucidate the HST MLI degradation mechanism. Tensile specimens of aluminized 5 mil thick FEP were exposed to a constant fluence of unfiltered x-ray radiation from a Mo target whose maximum energy ranged from 20-60 kV. Other samples were annealed, thermally cycled (100x) between 77-333 K, or cycled and irradiated. Tensile tests and density measurements were then performed on the samples. Only the samples which had been irradiated had the drastically reduced elongation-to-break, characteristic of the HST samples. Thermal cycling may accelerate the embrittlement, but the effect was near the scatter in the measurements. Annealing and thermal cycling had no apparent effect. Only the samples which had been irradiated and annealed showed significant density increases, likely implicating polymer chain scission and annealing.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Gaier, James R.
(NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Brinkmeier, Michael R.
(Manchester Coll. North Manchester, IN United States)
Gaier, Elizabeth M.
(Manchester Coll. North Manchester, IN United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 1999
Publication Information
Publication: 20th Space Simulation Conference: The Changing Testing Paradigm
Subject Category
Nonmetallic Materials
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19990040464Analytic Primary20th Space Simulation Conference: The Changing Testing Paradigm
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