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Comparison of the Atomic Oxygen Erosion Depth and Cone Height of Various Materials at Hyperthermal EnergyAtomic oxygen readily reacts with most spacecraft polymer materials exposed to the low Earth orbital (LEO) environment. If the atomic oxygen arrival comes from a fixed angle of impact, the resulting erosion will foster the development of a change in surface morphology as material thickness decreases. Hydrocarbon and halopolymer materials, as well as graphite, are easily oxidized and textured by directed atomic oxygen in LEO at energies of approx.4.5 eV. What has been curious is that the ratio of cone height to erosion depth is quite different for different materials. The formation of cones under fixed direction atomic oxygen attack may contribute to a reduction in material tensile strength in excess of that which would occur if the cone height to erosion depth ratio was very low because of greater opportunities for crack initiation. In an effort to understand how material composition affects the ratio of cone height to erosion depth, an experimental investigation was conducted on 18 different materials exposed to a hyperthermal energy directed atomic oxygen source (approx.70 eV). The materials were first salt-sprayed to provide microscopic local areas that would be protected from atomic oxygen. This allowed erosion depth measurements to be made by scanning microscopy inspection. The polymers were then exposed to atomic oxygen produced by an end Hall ion source that was operated on pure oxygen. Samples were exposed to an atomic oxygen effective fluence of 1.0x10(exp 20) atoms/sq cm based on Kapton H polyimide erosion. The average erosion depth and average cone height were determined using field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM). The experimental ratio of average cone height to erosion depth is compared to polymer composition and other properties.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Waters, Deborah L.
(QSS Group, Inc. Cleveland, OH, United States)
Banks, Bruce A.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Thorson, Stephen D.
(Wisconsin Univ. Madison, WI, United States)
deGroh, Kim, K.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Miller, Sharon K.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
March 1, 2007
Subject Category
Engineering (General)
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: 10th International Symposium on "Materials in a Space Environment"
Location: Collioure
Country: France
Start Date: June 19, 2006
End Date: June 23, 2006
Sponsors: Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aerospatiales, European Space Agency
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 843515.01.15.03
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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