SBIR Phase I: Low-cost, High Performance Fabrics for Inflatable Sructures
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a novel low-cost, high-performance fabric suitable for long service life helium inflatable structures, including aerostats and airships. Traditional fabrics for lighter-than-air (LTA) applications utilize woven polyester or vectran basecloths laminated with various materials that improve gas retention, environmental resistance and allow the material to be thermally bonded. This combination has excellent performance, providing a useful service life in excess of seven years, but comes at a high cost, which limits the commercial application of helium inflatable structures. The proposed low-cost, high performance fabric replaces the woven basecloth with a scrim of high-strength synthetic fibers, similar to those in high-end sailcloth. This type of material has not seen wide use in helium inflatable structures where seams are subject to long-term loading from internal pressure. The impact of scrim pattern and yarn alignment on seam stiffness and long-term holding strength is considered. This Phase I research will investigate the behavior of these materials, as well as one or more alternative woven fabrics, under long-term loading, UV exposure, and mechanical wear and tear, in order to evaluate their suitability for helium inflatables. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be a step toward the widespread commercialization of LTA inflatable structures in traditional and new application areas. Helium inflatable structures are traditionally used for transporting or elevating high value payloads, such as military surveillance equipment or advertising, where the relatively high cost of the fabric envelope is not a barrier to commercial feasibility. The advent of a low-cost, high performance helium inflatable fabric will make LTA structures economically viable for a number of industries that are cost-sensitive, including remote and emergency wireless communication; low-cost freight transport; and airborne wind energy production. The research will also enhance the understanding of the behavior of scrim-based fabrics under loading conditions, which may benefit a wide range of industries that could use these fabrics, including sailing, architectural fabrics and air inflatable structures.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Altaeros Energies, Inc.
28 Dane Street Somerville, MA 02143
Number of Employees: