Polyimides are widely used in thermal blankets covering the external surfaces of spacecrafts due to their space durability and their thermo-optical properties. However, they are susceptible to atomic oxygen (AO) erosion, the main hazard of low Earth orbit (LEO), and to electrical charging. This work demonstrates that liquid phase deposition (LPD) of 100 nm of tin oxide creates a protective coating on Kapton polyimide that has good adherence and is effective in preventing AO-induced surface erosion and in reducing electrical charging. The as-deposited tin oxide induces no significant changes in the original thermo-optical properties of the polymer and is effective in preventing electrostatic discharge (ESD). The durability of the oxide coating under AO attack was studied using oxygen RF plasma. The AO exposure did not result in any significant changes in surface morphology, thermo-optical, mechanical, and electrical properties of the tin oxide-coated Kapton. The erosion yield of tin oxide-coated Kapton was negligible after exposure to 6.4 × 1020O atoms·cm-2of LEO equivalent AO fluence, indicating a complete protection of Kapton by the LPD deposited coating. Moreover, the tin oxide coating is flexible enough so that its electrical conductivity stays within the desired range of antistatic materials despite mechanical manipulations. The advantages of liquid phase deposited oxides in terms of their not being line of site limited are well established. We now extend these advantages to coatings that reduce electrostatic discharge while still providing a high level of protection from AO erosion.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Chemical Society.
- atomic oxygen
- electrostatic discharge
- liquid phase deposition
- space environment
- tin oxide