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XCOR Aerospace has successfully tested ignition and oxygen compatibility of its new thermoplastic fluoropolymer composite material at NASA White Sands Test Facility.
“”We have been researching this technology since early 2004, and we continue to develop under NASA contract for composite liquid oxygen (LOX) tanks,”” said XCOR’s President, Jeff Greason. “”Shortly after NASA engaged XCOR on this project, we were able to demonstrate materials that were far superior to initial specifications. Indeed, a NASA test lab failed to make it burn in 100% oxygen atmosphere.””
XCOR expects the new composite material’s performance will resolve existing problems with cryogenic and liquid oxygen materials. They say that the material can be used by the aerospace industry in production of LOX tanks for fuel cells, life support systems, and small secondary propulsion systems such as attitude control thrusters. Its thermal insulating properties, nonflammability, as well as the high strength-to-weight ratio typical of composites, make it an enabling technology for building lighter, cheaper, more robust structures and systems.
The material is claimed to have numerous advantages over other, more traditional composites, being naturally resistant to microcracking, with a low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) and inherent resistance to combustion. When used in a skin-foam-skin composite, it also serves as thermal insulation as well as structure. XCOR say that the fluoropolymer composite maintains strength and flexibility at extreme temperatures (from -260 degrees to plus 280 degrees C, or -436 degrees F to plus 536 degrees F).
The image shows a standard graphite composite on the left and XCOR’s new fluoropolymer composite on the right, subjected to an oxygen enhanced atmosphere and direct application of flame from a blowtorch.
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