A patent was recently given to an eco-friendly and completely innovative production process of carbon fibers that is needed for heat shields and ablative rocket nozzles. It is a completely novice technique that can offer a better way to replenish dwindling stockpile of NASA’s cellulose rayon fiber that has not been into production process since the 1990s. The main reason for this halt was the harmful by-products that contaminated the surrounding environments and threatened well-being of living beings.
Heat shields as well as rocket nozzles need to be extremely resistant to harsh conditions that are thrusted upon them as they re-enter the atmosphere, this calls for inclusion of special materials in their production process. William Kaukler, the developer of this process, adds “This carbon fiber is not the same fiber that you’d go out and make aircraft or car parts from.” The process mainly aims to iterate features of NASA’s present stock of fibers that were previously produced by North American Rayon Corporation (NARC); the company was compelled to stop the production due to regulations imposed on ground of environment safety. The specialized rayon fibers from NARC were recently used by NASA in its Space Shuttle program.
Kaukler further adds, “Other people know about using ionic processes to make fibers, but they are not making carbon fibers with them. The trick was to make the properties of this fiber match the properties of the North American Rayon Corp. (NARC) fiber.” In order to formulate a rocket nozzle, the makers need to begin with carbon fiber fabric material that is composed of carbonized rayon. The layers are covered with pitch and then wounded around a mandrel. Once the heat treatment is complete, the pitch turns into solid carbon; consequently, the nozzle gets build up with a carbon fiber reinforced-carbon composite.
The rayon usage differentiates the rocket-ready carbon fiber from other regular polyacrylonitrile-based carbon fiber that is consumed in several other structural applications. Kaukler explains further, “The only way to make the carbon fiber that is suitable for rocket nozzles is to start with cellulosic fiber because it has the lowest rate of thermal conductivity of any fiber.”
Filed Under: News