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Variable‐emittance Infrared Electrochromic Skins Combining Unique Conducting Polymers, Ionic Liquid Electrolytes, Microporous Polymer Membranes, And Semiconductor/polymer Coatings, For Spacecraft Thermal Control

P. Chandrasekhar, Brian J. Zay, D. Lawrence, E. Caldwell, Rubik B. Sheth, R. Stephan, J. Cornwell
Published 2014 · Materials Science

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Variable emittance (e) is a property vital for the increasing needs in thermal control of future microspacecraft. This article describes fabrication, function, and performance of thin-film, flexible, variable-emittance (V-E) electrochromic skins that use a conducting polymer/-Au/-microporous membrane (CP/Au/µP) base, and a new, unique ionic liquid electrolyte (IonEl). Poly(aniline-co-diphenyl amine) with a long-chain polymeric dopant is used as the CP. A unique, patented device design yields no barrier between the active, electrochromic CP surface and the external environment, except for a thin, infrared-transparent semiconductor/polymer film that lowers solar absorptance [α(s)] and protects from atomic-O/far-UV. Use of the IonEl requires special activation methods. Data presented show tailorable e variations from 0.19 to 0.90, Δe values of >0.50 (which is the highest reported thus far for any functional V-E material, to our knowledge), α(s)  7 months under space conditions (<10−5 Pa vacuum, far-UV), show excellent durability. Other data show resistance to solar wind, atomic-O, electrostatic discharge, and micrometeoroids. These lightweight, inexpensive, advanced polymeric materials represent the only technology that can work with micro- (<20 kg) and nano- (<2 kg) spacecraft, thus eventually allowing for much greater flexibility in their design and potentially “democratizing” the entire space industry, for example, allowing small firms to launch their own, dedicated satellites. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 40850.
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