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Tracy Young                                                                                                                  March 25, 2004
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
(Phone: 321/867-2468)

KSC Release No. 14-04

NASA Chemist's Research Gains International Attention

Expertise in high-performance materials led to recent publication in several well-regarded technical journals for Dr. Martha Williams, a polymer research chemist at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The original research team at NASA's Langley Research Center, Va., collaborated with Williams to develop high-performance polyimide foams. The research partnership led to the development of a low-density, flame-resistant foam that provides thermal and acoustic insulation and high-performance structural support.

Williams' research assists the Center's needs in implementing the Strategic Plan. "We are responsible for developing and evaluating specialty polymeric or composite materials to meet advanced spaceport technology needs," said Williams, who was selected as the NASA Hugh Dryden Memorial Fellowship recipient in 1999.

After completing a standard, peer-review submission process, some of this research is now being published in international scientific journals. Polymer Degradation and Stability Journal is including "Aromatic Polyimide Foams: Factors that Lead to High Fire Performance." Journal of Adhesion Science and Technology is publishing "Characterization of Polyimide Foams after Exposure to Extreme Weathering Conditions" in a future issue.

"The publications address the thermal stability and fire performance of the polyimide foams, and how the foams are affected by weathering conditions. KSC's Beach Corrosion Site was used for the weathering studies," said Williams. "This research led to insight into foam technology and also helped lead to Langley's licensing and commercialization of these foams."

While these are Williams' publishing highlights, she and her colleagues produced more than 20 articles in four years, including a book chapter in American Chemical Society's Fire and Polymers. They are also supporting Langley's Return to Flight studies concerning External Tank foam.

"We are presently developing other specialty polymers that have potential applications in cryogenics, electrostatic dissipation, flame retardancy and radiation shielding," she said. "This research has great potential for royalty-producing intellectual property for KSC."

The research incited additional recognition such as NASA's 2003 "Turning Goals into Reality" Award, which was presented to the entire industry-government team.

"Having my work recognized is very rewarding," Williams said. "This recognition also provides a forum for showcasing NASA's technology and KSC's research capabilities."


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