Press Release

NASA Chemist’s Research Gains International Attention

By SpaceRef Editor
March 25, 2004
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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

“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.”

SpaceRef staff editor.