High temperature, electrically conductive graphite composites for space nuclear power

M. L. Lake, J. A. Woollam, R. O. Dillon, A. Ahmed, K. K. Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Space nuclear power systems require materials with low density, high thermal conductivity, and high electrical conductivity at elevated temperatures. Vapor grown carbon fiber (VGCF) is a novel material which is a good candidate for these structures. VGCF has been shown to have combined characteristics of thermal conductivity, strength and modulus which exceed values for PAN and pitch -based fibers, and has an electrical conductivity comparable to single crystal graphite. Major thrusts of the current research are to explore growth and processing of vapor grown fibers, and to study the effect of boron doping on the electrical properties of VGCF. Doping of graphite is known to change the distribution of electrons between energy levels in carbon, to enhance graphitization, and to modify the chemical composition of the surface of carbon fibers. Measurements of electrical resistivity as a function of temperature from 4 K to 2700 K have been obtained. The product of resistivity times density of annealed VGCF has been observed to be substantially lower than that of refractory metals at temperatures exceeding 1000 K, suggesting the utility of this unique material as an electrical conductor in space nuclear power thermionic conversion and other high temperature applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - Apr 6 1988
Externally publishedYes
EventSpace Structures, Power, and Power Conditioning 1988 - Los Angeles, United States
Duration: Jan 11 1988Jan 17 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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