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Analysis of Advanced Integrated Composite Thermal Structures for Space Applications



Optical systems experience severe performance degradation when their support structure or scientific instruments undergo shape distortion; thus, candidate materials for these systems must be sufficiently stiff and thermally stable. Carbon-fiberreinforced polymers (CFRPs), with their high stiffness-to-weight ratios and near-zero in-plane coefficients of thermal expansion (CTEs), are therefore appropriate for this application. However, despite the low CTE of the composite, thermal gradients can still stimulate warping of the structure. As such, the objective of the current research is to improve temperature uniformity of the CFRP and thereby enhance its dimensional stability. The program objective is to be realized using active control of flow through an interconnected network of channels embedded in the CFRP. Such vascular composites are an emerging class of multifunctional materials that show promise in applications for self-healing, structural health monitoring, and thermal regulation. However, due to the fledgling state of the field, the technology lacks proper tools for design, optimization, and analysis. This paper will introduce the application and describe development of a computational tool for analysis of thermovascular composites.

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