In situ and ex situ ellipsometric characterization of oxygen plasma and UV radiation effects on spacecraft materials

C. L. Bungay, T. E. Tiwald, M. J. DeVries, B. J. Dworak, John A. Woollam

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Atomic Oxygen (AO) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation contribute (including synergistically) to degradation of spacecraft materials in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). NASA is, therefore, interested in determining what effects the harsh LEO environment has on materials exposed to it, as well as develop materials that are more AO and UV resistant. The present work involves the study of AO and UV effects on polyarylene ether benzimidazole (PAEBI) with in situ and ex situ spectroscopic ellipsometry. PAEBI is a polymer proposed for space applications due to its reported ability to form a protective phosphorous oxide on the surface when exposed to AO. In our experiments PAEBI was exposed to UV radiation from a xenon lamp while in situ ellipsometry data were acquired. The effects of UV radiation were modeled as an exponentially graded layer on the surface of bulk PAEBI. The change in UV absorption spectra, depth profile of the index of refraction, and growth trends of the UV irradiated PAEBI were all studied in these experiments. In addition, PAEBI was exposed to an oxygen plasma to simulate the synergistic effects of AO and UV. Ellipsometry data were acquired in-line with both a UV-Visible ellipsometer and an infrared ellipsometer. The change in UV absorption bands and index of refraction due to synergistic AO/UV, as well as the growth trends of the oxide layer were studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-183
Number of pages7
JournalMaterials Research Society Symposium - Proceedings
StatePublished - 1998
EventProceedings of the 1997 MRS Fall Symposium - Boston, MA, USA
Duration: Nov 30 1997Dec 3 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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