Innovators at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have developed several new designs and methods of fabrication for composite and composite over-wrapped tank vessels that help significantly improve their structural integrity against impact, abrasion, harsh environments, and fire. Several embodiments of this technology portfolio also enable production of composite tanks capable of transporting liquefied natural gas or other cryogenic liquids. These innovations are applicable to important aerospace needs, including propulsion systems as well as new and growing fields such as natural gas transportation.
- Strong: Enables improved structural integrity for vessels that can withstand impact, fire, and other harsh conditions
- Versatile: Suitable for containing a wide range of materials—from high-pressure gases to liquid cryogens—over a wide range of temperatures
- Lightweight: Provides improvements that allow vessels to be lighter than previously available tanks of comparable strength
- Scalable: Offers designs and methods that can be easily tailored to large structures and easily handle tooling and materials changes
- Pressure-fed propulsion systems
- Natural gas and other fuel transportation
- Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) tanks for emergency responders
- Storage tanks for fuels, gases, and cryogenic fluids
What It Is
Marshall researchers have achieved and demonstrated technologies that increase the performance and robustness of composite tanks and pressure vessels. Their innovations have been applied to lined (metallic and non-metallic) composite over-wrapped pressure vessels and to all composite tanks and pressure vessels. The methods involve a unique combination of fibers and resin systems that result in superior resistance to impact damage and extreme environments while remaining lightweight and cost effective.
Further enhancements are ideal for the containment of compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. For example, custom-tuned materials applied to the vessels enhance the ability to contain cryogenic fluids and perform well under extreme environments. The addition of insulation and protective coatings augment the long-term storage of cryogenic fluids. The composite tank technologies have demonstrated superior performance in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) bonfire and ballistics tests.
Why It Is Better
Many currently available composite vessels are easy to damage by impact and do not perform well in high-temperature or cryogenic environments. Auto industry standards for natural gas and hydrogen containment are strict, and most current tank technologies have difficulty meeting them. In contrast, the use of Marshall's technologies allows them to surpass the minimum industry standard requirements. For example, composite vessels pressurized with liquid nitrogen and impacted with a 50-caliber, armor-piercing bullet withstood fragmentation in tests. Other vessels using Marshall's technologies demonstrated the same burst pressure as a non-fire exposed vessel after undergoing an entire bonfire test.
This technology is part of NASA’s technology transfer program. The program seeks to stimulate development of commercial uses of NASA-developed technologies. NASA is flexible in its agreements, and opportunities exist for licensing and joint development. MSFC is interested in a partnership to commercialize the technology.
Marshall has patented this technology.
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If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA’s technology transfer program, please contact:
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
Manager, Technology Commercialization and Licensing
Phone: (256) 544-5226
Fax: (256) 544-4810