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Pacoima, CA, United States

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

ABSTRACT: In previous work for MDA and the Army, Navy, and Air Force, Ultramet demonstrated the fabrication of carbon fiber-reinforced refractory carbide matrix composites for missile and railgun projectile nosetip and aeroshell applications using a rapid, low-cost melt infiltration process. The composite materials have undergone extensive high temperature testing under laser and arcjet heating conditions and have exhibited low or no erosion when tested to nearly 2900°C. The composites have also exhibited extremely high toughness and thermal shock resistance and have good potential for operation in adverse weather. Stability in rain, snow, and hail is a critical issue for hypersonic vehicles, and Ultramet composite materials have performed very well in hydrometeor and nylon bead impact tests conducted by NASA MSFC. Coatings and conventional ceramic matrix composites (CMC) are much more prone to impact damage, whereas Ultramet CMCs have established resistance to oxidation, weather erosion, and thermal shock. In this project, Ultramet will team with aerospace systems developer and manufacturer Raytheon (component selection, requirements definition) and with Materials Research and Design (component design and analysis) to establish the feasibility of utilizing well-established melt infiltration processing of ultrahigh temperature CMC materials that offer reduced weight and increased performance as well as improved manufacturability over silicon- or boron-containing CMCs for hypersonic vehicle leading edges. Initial CMC designs will be established for the selected component(s) and a prototype will be fabricated and subjected to high temperature oxidation testing at the Air Force LHMEL facility. BENEFIT: The proposed use of rapidly manufactured high temperature ceramic matrix composite leading edge components can play a key role in achieving hypersonic vehicle manufacturability and cost goals as well as weight and performance objectives. Readily available materials that require little development time are critical. In addition to monolithic CMC structures such as nosetips and fins, the potential exists to combine the CMC with Ultramet"s structural foam insulation to produce integrated airframe/thermal protection system aeroshell structures. Ultramet CMCs, produced by a rapid, low-cost melt infiltration process, have demonstrated outstanding performance in multiple test series, including those performed under the Composites and Advanced Materials (CAM) and Hypersonic Flight Demonstration (HyFly) programs among others. Other potential aerospace applications include launch vehicle propulsion systems and aerobraking structures for planetary exploration. Potential commercial applications include high temperature, low-mass insulating structures for heat cycle and gas turbine engines, scramjet and ramjet engine components, and furnace heat recovery units (recuperators).


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 999.99K | Year: 2014

Designs for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) employ several plasma-facing materials selected for their suitability to regions of the vessel with different power and flux characteristics. Tungsten is one of the most important candidates for diverter component materials, given its low erosion and good mechanical properties at high temperature. However, high-toughness tungsten alloys that are suitable for fusion plasma environments still must be developed to overcome the inherently brittle nature of tungsten. Solid solution alloys of tungsten-iron with relatively high toughness and ductility, produced using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) processing, are being d eveloped. The process allows the direct deposition of solid solution alloys to produce complex net-shaped plasma-facing com ponents of the desired tungsten alloys, without the high impurity levels, porosity, complexity, and cost associated with alternative processing such as melting, sintering of powders, or homogenization heat treatments. CVD processing was successfully developed for a fully dense, uniform tungsten-iron (W -Fe) alloy that demonstrated increased ductility compared with pure tungsten. Alloys containing 2.5, 3.5, and 4.1 at% iron were produced. Nanoindentation testing showed the Young & apos;s modulus and hardness of the CVD W -Fe alloys were less than those values for CVD tungsten, and the W -Fe alloys survived multiple heating cycles to 1200C at a heating rate of 20C/sec. Dislocation motion in tungsten and W -Fe alloys was modeled u sing three complementary approaches: molecular dynamics, quantum m echanics, and kink pair nucleation and motion coupled with the phonon drag kinetic theory of gases. The CVD tungsten-iron solid solution alloys will be optimized, and detailed modeling and material characterization will be p erform ed. Specimens will be exposed to simulated plasma transients to characterize performance. High temperature thermomechanical properties (tensile and compressive strength vs. strain between ambient and 1200C) will be measured. Thermomechanical damage will be modeled using thermo-elasto- plasticity finite element modeling. Dislocation dynamics modeling of the plastic deformation of W -Fe alloys, and modeling of dislocation nucleation, emission, and motion from crack tips in tungsten and W -Fe alloys, will be performed to determine the influence of iron on the ductile-to-brittle transition temperature. Commercial applications and other benefits: Nuclear fusion is an ideal alternative to increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuels and can provide a much greater quantity of environmentally sound energy than wind, solar, and geothermal sources. Practical application of fusion for efficient electricity generation requires the development of materials and structures that can withstand the demanding reactor environment. The proposed tungsten alloys are key materials for reactors that will ultimately be scaled up for commercial use.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

Efficient nuclear-thermal propulsion (NTP) requires heating a low molecular weight gas, typically hydrogen, to high temperature and expelling it through a nozzle. The higher the temperature and pressure, the higher the thrust and specific impulse. For ground test facilities that will be heating the gas to temperatures up to 4400F (2425C), the number of materials that can be used is severely limited. The need for compatibility with hot hydrogen limits the field even further. In Phase I, Ultramet designed, fabricated, and tested a system for heating high-pressure hydrogen to temperatures approaching 2400C. The system included a foam-based heating element, an insulation package, and a carefully designed multiwalled pressure vessel that could contain the hot gas at pressures up to 2000 psig. The Phase I effort demonstrated the suitability of the selected materials and the overall design approach. Phase II will focus on scaling up the system, fabricating and testing hardware, and laying out a clear path to a system that can deliver hot hydrogen at flow rates up to 40 lbm/sec (the highest flow rate currently of interest to NASA) at pressures up to 2000 psig. The overall system will be composed of multiple modules, and each module will be comprised of multiple heating elements. Because the design is modular, flows higher than 40 lbm/sec can be achieved. The modular design also minimizes programmatic risk because it will allow the use of materials at higher technology readiness levels and subsystems that do not have to be scaled up.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

In this work, Ultramet is developing a three-dimensional (3D) laser-directed chemical vapor deposition (CVD) additive manufacturing system to build free-form refractory metal components for liquid rocket propulsion systems. By combining Ultramet's experience in refractory metal fabrication by CVD with computer control of directed laser energy, nearly unlimited expression of part shape and metal composition can be realized for component fabrication. 3D additive manufacturing is revolutionizing many industries by offering unconstrained complex build geometries and reduced cost, lead time, and material usage compared with conventional manufacturing techniques. By developing laser-directed CVD technology for refractory metals, Ultramet will bring these inherent benefits to a class of materials that are notoriously difficult to form and thus are expensive to implement. By depositing successive layers of metal directly from reactive precursor gases, the system will be able to build components from rhenium, tungsten, tantalum, niobium, and their alloys with complex internal features and reduced assembly part count. In Phase I, Ultramet designed and built a laser-directed CVD reactor, successfully deposited both rhenium and tungsten in a controlled fashion, and achieved well-defined two-dimensional spatial control and layering as a strong demonstration of process feasibility. In Phase II, Ultramet will design and build a new high-power, high-speed reactor with optical z-axis control to enable layering for 3D geometries at high deposition rates. Software and hardware integration will provide automated layering control to enable fully automatic additive manufacturing from 3D models. The deposited rhenium and its layering will be characterized and optimized by direct printing of mechanical test specimens and small demonstrator articles. This phase of the research will mature the system and technology to a level where automated fabrication of small 3D components is possible.


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

ABSTRACT: In recent work for the Air Force, Ultramet demonstrated nearly one thousand restarts with repeatable pulse performance and steady-state burn characteristics using AF-M315E monopropellant and a novel ignition system. Based on the results of that project, Ultramet received a Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) award from the Air Force to further develop the technology into a flightweight system, including qualification testing of a 22-N AF-M315E thruster by Moog-ISP to bring the technology to TRL 8. In the proposed project, Ultramet and Moog-ISP will leverage the previous and ongoing Air Force work to develop a 1-N AF-M315E-compatible cubesat monopropellant propulsion system design concept that utilizes an Ultramet chamber/nozzle, and conduct a feasibility study on a cubesat-sized AF-M315E-compatible rim-rolling metallic diaphragm tank. Scaleability of the igniter technology will also be demonstrated at the 1-N level. Phase II will involve fabrication and hot-fire testing of a flight-like cubesat monopropellant propulsion system and bring the technology to TRL 8. Phase II teaming partners will include propulsion system integrator Moog-ISP, satellite integrator Ball Aerospace, and Aerospace Corporation for technical oversight. BENEFIT: The proposed technology will eliminate the catalyst degradation and washout issues plaguing AF-M315E catalysts, make hydrazine systems more robust, and/or simplify ignition/restart of non-hypergolic propellants. Potential applications will be numerous as it will enable use of advanced monopropellants that offer performance beyond that of monopropellant hydrazine and bipropellant NTO/MMH. The ignition system can be used in attitude control and apogee engines for commercial and government satellites and divert and attitude control system engines for kinetic kill vehicles. The use of toxic propellants such as hydrazine will be eliminated in gas generators on military aircraft and fuel pressurization systems for tactical missiles. Because such a fast ramp rate and high ultimate temperature can be achieved, it may also be applicable to use in divert and attitude control systems for kinetic kill vehicles and other missile defense systems. Potential military, civil, and commercial space applications for the foam igniter system are orbit transfer, maneuvering, station keeping, and attitude control for satellites. Any agency with satellites employing hydrazine propulsion will benefit.

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