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NASA Research Teams Win Two R&D 100 Awards

The making of RTM370 in the lab The making of RTM370 in the lab. Photo Credit: Tech Transfer

RTM370 in process RTM370 in process (completed resin on the right)
. Photo Credit: Tech Transfer

Othmane and Tim test hardware in the SLOPE lab
 Othmane and Tim test hardware in the SLOPE lab
. Photo Credit: NASA GRC

Actual demonstration of the SMARS technology
 Actual demonstration of the SMARS technology
. Photo Credit: NASA GRC

Dr. Othmane Benafan, a materials researcher at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, arrived in the U.S. fifteen years ago from Morocco. He put himself through college and went on to receive his PhD in mechanical engineering. His first job in this country was as a dishwasher at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida, which happens to be the same hotel where he received an R&D 100 award.

Two teams of researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center were honored with R&D 100 awards, bringing the center’s total number of this prestigious award to 123. The annual competition for excellence in innovative technology is sponsored by R&D magazine.

The 2017 awards are for pioneering a shape memory alloy rock splitter to split apart rock formations without explosives or hydraulics and a resin transfer molding (RTM) 370 for high-temperature applications.

Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitters, or SMARS, is a device that generates large forces without any demolition damage to the surrounding environment. It is cost-effective, reliable, and easy to set up and activate.

“NASA Glenn’s materials innovations are enabling disruptive new technologies with a broad range of applications,” said Joyce Dever, deputy chief of Glenn’s Materials and Structures Division. “SMARS is putting new alloys to work, providing groundbreaking force in a lightweight device.”

SMARS can be used in oil drilling; hydraulic fracturing; mining -- particularly gemstone and precious metal mining; offshore exploration; tensioning and lifting; civil engineering; paleontological projects, including fossil collection; archaeological digs; search-and-rescue operations and the space industry.

Team SMARS inventors are Othmane Benafan (Middleburg Heights, Ohio) and Ronald D. Noebe (Medina, Ohio) of Glenn and Timothy J. Halsmer (North Olmsted, Ohio) of Jacobs Technology.

The Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) 370 for High-Temperature Applications is a solvent-free process that simplifies high-temperature resin production and streamlines the fabrication of high-performing RTM370 based polymer composites. “The RTM370 enables more complex and high-performing composite parts with less complex processing,” Dever said.

The benefits of RTM370 resin are significant weight and cost savings to the aerospace, electrical, oil drilling and specialty automotive industries.

Potential applications include injection molding of parts, such as trim, structural support, plastics and gears; high-temperature engine components, such as bushings and bearings; composite ducts and tubes; self-lubricating parts; and 3-D printing of high-temperature composite parts by laser sintering.

The R&D 100 award for RTM370 went to Glenn researcher Chun-Hua “Kathy” Chuang of Brecksville, Ohio.