Lockheed Martins Applied NanoStructured Solutions (ANS) subsidiary has created a process to infuse multi-wall carbon nanotubes with glass, carbon, and ceramic fibers for continuous, high-volume production. These infused carbon nanostructures (CNS) are versatile platforms for users to create the next-generation of low-cost composite materials with enhanced electrical and thermal conductivity, advanced shielding properties and protection against lightning strikes. Low-cost manufacturing processes and the unique architecture and properties of carbon nanostructures offer cost-effective, multi-functional performance across multiple applications in defense, aerospace, automotive and commercial applications.
ANS engineered its carbon nanostructure materials to be compatible with established manufacturing processes, reducing both design and production costs for end-users. The unique manufacturing process ANS created thoroughly infuses carbon nanotubes (CNT) onto glass, carbon or ceramic fiber substrates in a precisely controlled manner. Unlike materials merely coated with carbon nanotubes, ANS cross-linked and highly entangled arrangement imparts enhanced
electrical, thermal, and structural properties of nanotubes to end-products. This is done as one end-to-end production without requiring costly secondary materials and processes.
The critical infusion of the nanotubes occurs through an innovative and scalable roll-to-roll process now in operation at the ANS Pilot Scale Production facility in Baltimore, Maryland.
ANS works closely with end-users to create a product-specific, CNT-matrix blend for a users select applications. After developing and validating product prototypes, ANS will license appropriate patents and production details to commercial manufacturers that are configured for their existing production infrastructure.
For manufacturers, a substantial advantage of the cross-linked CNS network is that it does not shed or produce respirable nanotubes that can affect health. Recognizing that carbon nanostructure technology does not present an unreasonable risk, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Premanufacture Notice (PMN) for CNS materials in thermoplastic matrices. Subsequent PMNs will follow, as material forms for specific applications are identified. Lockheed Martin researchers are also collaborating with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to establish best practices and procedures to mitigate employee exposure.
Versatility in ActionLockheed Martin has demonstrated that CNS can enhance performance of materials used in a wide range of applications, including:
EMI and cable shielding Lightning strike protection Structural health monitoring Composite materials for lightweight structural
One use of the ANS-engineered carbon nanostructures is to protect composites in modern aircraft from lightning strikes. While composite materials provide many advantages, they can be severely damaged by lightning strikes. The industry solution to date has been to add a metal mesh layer to the aircraft design, but ANS engineers have demonstrated that adding their carbon nanostructures to aerial composite materials can provide a light-weight, low-cost alternative to enhance protection.
The company has also crafted CNS-infused braided shielding to protect against electromagnetic interference, using both glass and carbon fiber substrates. This cabling offers shielding effectiveness from direct current to 40 Ghz, a 30-70 percent weight savings compared to standard shielding components, and costs significantly less than braided copper shielding, commercial metal-clad fibers, and traditional CNT materials.
THE POWER OF CONTROLLED ARRANGEMENT Rapid Reengineering
Lockheed Martin has embarked on a challenge to redesign the Desert Hawk III unmanned aircraft system (UAS) using nanocomposite materials. Engineers were challenged to increase the aircrafts durability without increasing the weight of this 8-pound surveillance workhorse. They used ANS-infused composites to remanufacture the Desert Hawks nacelle and motor compartment, camera bay, and rear fuselage and tail assembly. Two redesigned aircraft have received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for flight in commercial airspace. Lockheed Martin engineers will complete this makeover with CNS composite propellers and wings. Based on this success, the company plans to incorporate CNS-infused composites into many of its UAS platforms, improving their durability, increasing mission lifetime, and lowering manufacturing costs.