Huntsville, AL, United States

Plasma Processes, LLC.

www.plasmapros.com
Huntsville, AL, United States
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Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Navy | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 478.32K | Year: 2015

The Navy is developing weapon systems capable of launching inert projectiles for long-range surface fire support and missile intercept applications. Inert projectiles offer significant logistical and safety advantages over conventional chemical propellants or explosive ordnances. The launch conditions of future hypersonic projectiles will put extreme mechanical and aerothermal loads on the projectile nosetip. These conditions combined with the high-density requirements present a significant materials challenge. No economical monolithic component is projected to survive the extreme conditions immediately after projectile launch, followed by less severe conditions during flight to target. The objective of a Phase II effort is to further the development of multi-layered nosetip concepts. This concept is based on a dense W core with outermost sacrificial layer that is intended to dissipate absorbed thermal energy from aerothermal loading, thereby limiting steep thermal gradients in the underlying refractory material(s). The team of Plasma Processes, MR&D and St. Croix Research will seek to build on Phase I efforts by optimizing materials selection, thermo-structural models, nosetip geometries, and fabrication techniques. At the conclusion of the base Phase II effort, nosetip specimens will be fabricated for testing in relevant arc jet environments. Testing will be conducted during efforts following the base Phase II.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2016

Tungsten and its alloys are candidates for plasma facing component (PFC) armor due to their low sputtering rate, high melting point, high thermal conductivity, high strength at elevated temperatures, and low tritium inventory. Although copper alloys have been selected for the heat sinks for ITER, a working fusion reactor will require the use of higher strength, low activation materials. For example, ITER neutron fluence estimates for structural components are 0.3MWa/m2, which corresponds to a 3dpa. In contrast, the neutron fluence in a demonstration reactor will exceed 10-15 MWa/m2 or 100-150dpa. Therefore, low activation structural materials such as reduced activation ferritic/martensitic (RAFM) steels will be needed. A pre-conceptual power plant such as the ARIES-ACT1 will require a tungsten armored-RAFM steel first wall, which will correspond to 75-80% of the plasma facing surface. Therefore, techniques for joining tungsten armor to RAFM steel substrates are needed. During this effort, additive manufacturing techniques will be developed to allow joining of low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) tungsten armor to high CTE RAFM steels using functional gradient materials (FGMs). Thus, a three dimensional joint will be produced and the thermal induced stresses will not be concentrated at a planar bond line. To produce the FGM joints during the Phase I investigation, two additive manufacturing methods will be evaluated: Vacuum Plasma Spray (VPS) and High Pressure Cold Spray (HPCS). During Phase II, the use of other additive manufacturing techniques such as laser/e-beam powder bed processing will be evaluated to enable the production of unique cooling features in the RAFM heat sink. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits In addition to joining other armor materials using additively produced functional gradient materials, commercial applications that will benefit from the technology to be developed include aerospace, defense, propulsion, power generation, semiconductor, crucibles, heat shields, x-ray targets, wear and corrosion protection coatings. Key Words: plasma facing components, PFCs, fusion, joining, tungsten, RAFM steel, additive manufacturing, cold spray, vacuum plasma spray, functional gradient materials


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2016

Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) has been identified as a critical technology needed for human missions to Mars due to its increased specific impulse (Isp) as compared to traditional chemical propulsion systems. A critical aspect of the program is to develop a robust, stable nuclear fuel. One of the nuclear fuel configurations currently being evaluated is a cermet-based material comprised of uranium dioxide (UO2) particles encased in a tungsten matrix (W). Recently, hot isostatic pressure (HIP) and spark plasma sintering (SPS) processing techniques have been evaluated for producing W cermet-based fuel elements from powder feedstocks. Although both techniques have been used successfully to produce W cermet fuel segments, the fabrication of full-size W cermet elements (>20) has proven to be difficult. As a result, the use of W cermet segments to produce a full-size W cermet fuel element is of interest. However, techniques for joining the segments are needed that will not lower the use temperature, damage the UO2 particles, or compromise the nuclear performance of the fuel. For these reasons, joining of the segments using braze or weld techniques is not desired. Therefore, diffusion bonding techniques will be developed during this investigation for producing full-size nuclear fuel rods from W cermet segments. To promote diffusion during solid state bonding, different refractory metal interfacial coatings will be evaluated.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 749.90K | Year: 2015

NASA's Road Maps for both Launch and In Space Propulsion call for the development of non-toxic, monopropellant reaction control systems to replace the current toxic hydrazine based systems. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle capsule with twelve 160 pound force (lbf) hydrazine monopropellant thrusters and the Orion Service Module with eight 100lbf NTO/MMH auxiliary propulsion thrusters are obvious insertion candidates. Additionally, the Commercial Crew and Cargo spacecraft have also demonstrated the need for 100lbf class attitude control thrusters with quantities comparable to Orion. Hydrazine replacements, including non-toxic HAN- and ADN-monopropellants, combust at higher temperatures making them incompatible with current Inconel 625 thrusters used in 100lbf engines. With an emphasis on hydrazine replacement increased performance, ease of manufacturing and cost reduction, a "green" 100lbf flight-weight thruster is being developed.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2016

One of the biggest obstacles preventing the widespread implementation of small satellites is the process of actually getting them into space. Current methods include hitching rides as secondary payloads. Although this initiative has provided significant new launch capacity for CubeSat-class spacecraft, it is not without issues, most specifically limited orbits and orbital lifetime. Many missions need higher orbits to perform their missions; and lower orbits are subject to atmospheric drag that may cause premature reentry. Safe and affordable miniaturized propulsion can overcome these limiting factors and is a high-visibility capability sought by the CubeSat community. Even basic capabilities to push in one direction will allow nanosats to remain in orbit longer, or allow a satellite placed into low-Earth orbit to nudge itself to a higher geostationary orbit. In support of this technological need, Plasma Processes will design, fabricate and demonstrate combustion of a miniaturized propulsion system compatible with non-toxic HAN- and ADN-based green monopropellants for small spacecraft propulsion. The use of advanced, non-toxic propellants can increase mission capabilities including longer mission durations, additional maneuverability, increased scientific payload space, and simplified launch processing. Adding propulsion will also enable de-orbiting of the satellite after completion of the mission.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: High temperature wind tunnels are needed to replicate the environment vehicles will experience during high Mach Number flight. Of particular interest are sustained airflow temperatures of 2800aF. To obtain this temperature, improved heating elements and systems are needed. During Phase I, an oxidation resistant, high temperature iridium-based wind tunnel heating element has been developed. Resistive heating experiments showed element surface temperatures greater than 1650aC (3000aF) can be obtained with the current architecture. During Phase II, the process parameters and techniques developed in the Phase I effort will be optimized. For the Phase II investigation, Plasma Processes will partner with the University of Alabama at Huntsville to aid in the design and analysis of a complete heating element system and Southern Research Institute to characterize the heating element properties. The modular system will then be delivered to the Air Force for testing with high mass flow rates at Arnold Engineering Development Center. BENEFIT: The development of an oxidation resistant heating element and heating element system will enable testing of engines and critical hypersonic components such as leading edges and nose tips at high Mach Number (5+). This capability will support numerous military applications with in the Department of Defense and other government agencies such as NASA. In addition, this technology is needed for commercial entities in the following sectors: oxidation resistant coatings, defense, material R&D, nuclear power, aerospace, propulsion, automotive, electronics, crystal growth, and medical. Targeted commercial applications include net-shape fabrication of refractory and platinum group metals for rocket nozzles, crucibles, heat pipes, and propulsion subcomponents; and advanced coating systems for x-ray targets, sputtering targets, turbines, rocket engines, and furnace and heater components.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Missile Defense Agency | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 973.89K | Year: 2014

Primary missile structures, ancillary mechanical and electrical sub-components of missile propulsion systems must be thermally isolated from hot propulsion gases. Silica-cloth phenolic and carbon-cloth phenolic are the go-to legacy insulator materials of choice. However, these materials have limited temperature use; mechanical degradation with decomposition of the matrix; and high thermal conductivity in the charred state. At present, burn durations, flame temperatures and inter-pulse delays are constrained to avoid overheating. The objective a Phase II investigation is to develop and evaluate a low cost, high payoff ceramic-based laminar composite. Results of material property studies will provide input for trade studies to investigate the benefits and payoff of this technology in multiple propulsion systems. Favorable insulator designs will be evaluated in sub-scale test motors. Approved for Public Release 14-MDA-7739 (18 March 14).


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2015

Obtaining high-gradient, high frequency accelerator structures are essential for future science, medicine and biology, energy and environment, and national security applications. Emerging experimental results suggest that high magnetic field or alternatively surface pulsed heating leads to radio frequency breakdown. A natural extension is to study materials that have higher tolerance to surface fatigue. Recent work has shown improvements in surface breakdown for ion cyclotron range of frequency antenna for plasma heating can be achieved using refractory metal coatings as compared to pure copper electrodes. The results also suggest additional improvements can be achieved by increasing the density and surface finish of the coatings. Therefore, during this effort Plasma Processes, LLC and Massachusetts Institute of Technology will work together to develop refractory metal coatings with improved density and surface finishes for radio frequency power sources and components for accelerators. During Phase I, parameter development will be performed and samples will be produced for preliminary testing. During Phase II, the techniques necessary for the coating of full-size accelerator components will be developed. Tests of these advanced structures will then be performed yielding critical data on performance. The development of dense, well-bonded refractory metal coatings on copper substrates will enable the fabrication of accelerator components with improved breakdown resistance and improve accelerator performance. In addition, the same techniques used to produce these deposits on copper substrates can be used for other applications including aerospace, defense, propulsion, power generation, electrical contact and switch gear, semiconductor, crucibles, heat shields, x-ray targets, wear and corrosion protection coatings.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2015

In fusion plasmas, ion cyclotron range of frequency (ICRF) and lower hybrid range of frequency (LHRF) power is anticipated to be a primary auxiliary heating and current drive sources in next step tokamak experiments like ITER. From a technological perspective, several challenges remain including electrical breakdown and material compatibility with a nuclear environment. Copper has been the primary material used in present experiments due to its high thermal and electrical conductivity. In a nuclear reactor, copper will be restricted to thin coatings due to material swelling from neutron bombardment and poor mechanical strength at high temperature expected in fusion reactors. Recent experimental results suggest that high magnetic field or pulsed surface heating limits the attainable electric fields. Copper alloys with higher tolerance to surface fatigue have indeed shown improvements. The natural extension is to develop high strength and high melting temperature refractory metal coatings that are more tolerant to surface fatigue and compatible with nuclear environment. Recent testing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has shown considerable promise for refractory metal coatings. However, improvements in density and conductivity are needed. During Phase I, innovative electrochemical forming (EL-Form) techniques have been developed that enable the deposition of dense, high purity, well-adhered refractory metal coatings on Inconel substrates. Phase I testing has shown the EL-Form coatings are superior to the previous generation of ICRF refractory metal coatings. During Phase II, the refractory metal coating techniques will be optimized and scaled for coating large antenna straps. The optimized techniques will then be used to produce ICRF antennas that will be tested at MITs Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC). The development of dense, well-bonded refractory metal coatings on Inconel substrates will enable the fabrication of ICRF antennas with improved breakdown resistance and performance. In addition, the same techniques used to produce these deposits on Inconel substrates can be used for other applications including aerospace, defense, propulsion, power generation, electrical contact and switch gear, semiconductor, crucibles, heat shields, x-ray targets, wear and corrosion protection coatings.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2016

The Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) utilizes attitude control motors (ACM) with advanced ceramic composite components that function as a valve control system to allow for safe maneuverability away from danger. This system is made steerable due to the valve controlled thrusters which utilize advanced ceramic pintles made of 4D C/C-SiC that are attached to metallic structures and actuated. During the Phase I effort, an innovative technique to join metallics with the advanced ceramic composites was demonstrated. Detailed characterization confirmed the deposited metal (Inconel 625) produced during this investigation had good adherence to C-C/SiC pintles and no interfacial reactions occurred during deposition or elevated temperature exposure. In Phase II, the joining interface will be optimized and pintle assembles will be produced for hot fire testing with Orbital ATK. Additional CMC materials and components will also be developed.

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