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Innovative Materials Science Solutions for High Performance Applications

Amulya Das, Director of Business Development at Mid-Mountain Materials, Inc., talks to AZoM about the company, their products, projects they have been involved in and what the future has in store for them.

Could you please provide a brief introduction to Mid-Mountain Materials, Inc. and the sector that you work within?

Mid-Mountain Materials is the industry’s leading expert in the manufacture of high performance textiles for extreme temperature protection. Mid-Mountain develops, manufactures and markets high performance coated and treated textiles, fabricated parts, composites and refractories for thermal protection, energy conservation, safety and process-specific applications.

Mid-Mountain products are used in a wide range of critical applications and industries, including aerospace, hearth, metal, automotive, marine, petrochemical, construction, food processing, electronics and many more. We are material Science people and our capability and expertise go beyond what we do every day. We solve material science problems, and look forward to the challenge of complex applications.

Why are thermal insulation barriers and seals so important? What are the main industries that benefit from their use?

Thermal Insulation barriers and seals provide a thermal barrier that prevents heat loss, conserves energy, and provides safety. In addition, we manufacture emission reduction products that help reduce Global Warming. Industries such as metals, petroleum, chemicals, glass, paper, aerospace and any other industry where flames and extreme heat can be a danger can benefit from the use of our thermal insulation barriers.

What are some of the unique materials that you can provide for the aerospace industry?

Customers use our advanced material solutions for unique and demanding aerospace applications including flexible cargo liners, seals, and smoke seals, as well as covers in the form of  insulation blankets and thermal barriers in various parts of the aircraft. Most of these products meet the BMS spec including radiant panel tests. They are non-flammable, non-toxic and weather resistant.

Could you explain how Mid Mountain Materials has been involved in the Mars Lander project?

Current Mars landing techniques date back to NASA's Viking mission, which put two landers on Mars in 1976. That mission's parachute design has been in use ever since -- and was used again in 2012 to deliver the Curiosity rover to Mars. To conduct advanced exploration missions in the future, NASA is advancing the technology to a new level of sophistication since the Viking-style parachutes' capabilities are limited.

To safely land heavier spacecraft on Mars, larger parachutes and other kinds of drag devices that can be deployed at supersonic speeds are being considered. High in the Earth's stratosphere, NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator mission will test new, full-scale parachutes and drag devices at supersonic speeds to refine them for future use on Mars. Testing is undergoing on earth, with a potential launch to Mars as early as 2020. The new devices under development include balloon-like pressure vessels, called Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators (SIADs).

The Exploration-class (SIAD-E) is an 8 meter diameter attached isotensoid constructed from synthetic fibers and inflated by a combination of gas generators and ram air inlets. The SIAD-E isotensoid shell is constructed from 27 gores of 200 denier braided Technora fabric as well as 200 denier Kevlar fabric coated with complex silicone compound, capable of withstanding temperatures associated with deployments at supersonic Mach numbers. To ensure uniform flow separation, a burble fence, also made from silicone-coated Technora, is attached near the maximum diameter location of the isotensoid.

The SIAD-E is designed to fully deploy in under 2 seconds at conditions up to Mach 4 and dynamic pressures up to 2000 Pa. The most challenging part of this program was to coat silicone compound onto Technora braided fabric which is very dimensionally unstable and heat sensitive fabric. JPL, partnered with Air Born Systems, came to Mid-Mountain with this challenging task.

With our state of art coating technology we developed a unique coating technique to coat this braided technora fabric successfully without applying any web tension and any high heat to JPL’s spec. Our specially formulated silicone coated Technora fabric has been tested successfully on ground and now is being considered for next Mars Lander Project. We are really proud of this achievement and being part of this great Mars exploration mission.

Deployed 8m isotensoid attached to 4.7m aeroshell

Figure 1. Deployed 8m isotensoid attached to 4.7m aeroshell

Could you also talk in more detail about the fireproof cargo covers that you developed for use on commercial carriers?

Following the investigation into three fire-related freighter accidents that occurred between 2006 and 2012, the NTSB recommended, in October 2012, that the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) require active fire-suppression systems in all cargo compartments of aircraft, the development of fire resistant cargo covers or Fire containment covers (FCC).

The industry has responded to this critical aviation safety issue. Fire containment covers (FCC) have been developed to enhance safety on freighter aircraft by isolating individual pallets under a special fire retardant cover. Mid-Mountain has responded to the industry requirement for fire containment covers. The fire containment cover operates as a passive system which keeps a fire isolated from other cargo being carried on an aircraft.

Our Fire Containment Cover material has been developed following the outcome of our research and development, and the product is the most advanced protection available for containing deadly smoke and fire in commercial aircraft cargo bays.

The product is made of a special polymer coated fabric treated with a proprietary formulation of fire retardants that is able to withstand temperatures up to 1800°F (982°C) for up to four hours and offers exceptional resistance to fire, smoke, and weather conditions. This fabric also has very high tensile and puncture resistance strength with very high weather and mildew resistance properties.

This fabric cover provides a two-way fire barrier that effectively isolates each cargo position on the aircraft and prevents any fire from spreading and escalating. The fire containment cover suppresses the localized threat of the fire on the aircraft through oxygen starvation.

Mid-Mountain Materials has received ANSI/FM 4950 Approval on a number of high-temperature resistant materials – could you explain what this means and why it is of importance?

Hot work operations such as welding and cutting are most critical in heavy industries like oil refining, petrochemicals, power generation and shipbuilding. However, no organization performing hot work is free of risk, as evidenced by the large number of hot work fires listed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Operations such as food processing plants, universities, hospitals, missile silos and paper mills have all experienced losses due to hot work accidents. FM Approvals, the testing and certification arm of FM Global, tackled the challenge of developing the first performance-based standard for welding curtains, blankets and pads.  “The fire performance of a fire-resistant cover depends on the type of welding function to which it will be subjected. In general, welding pads, welding blankets and welding curtains are evaluated on their ability to:

  • Prevent burn through of the material and provide adequate protection for adjacent combustibles from possible sources of ignition;
  • Limit temperature transmission through the material to a degree that will prevent ignition to underlying combustibles;
  • Resist melting, dripping or deformation so as to prevent sparks from spreading outside of confined and protected areas;
  • Maintain their flexibility, durability and structural integrity when charred areas are subject to 90 degree bends;
  • Maintain their fire and temperature rise resistance properties when subjected to accelerated weathering tests intended to simulate exposure to light and water (ultraviolet and condensation, respectively) conditions.”

Mid-Mountain went through a rigorous testing and qualification process of FM Global to get our products approved for welding pads, blankets as well as curtains. We are one of few in the industry worldwide who have such approvals, and we are very proud of this global recognition.

How was Mid-Mountain Materials involved in the Gulf oil spill clean-up in 2010?

The Hydro-Fire Boom, developed by Mid-Mountain Materials, is a fire-resistant, water cooled inflatable boom that is an effective barrier to prevent the spread of oil fires on water. Fire boom products from Mid-Mountain Materials were used to help clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the 2010. Mid-Mountain was one of the major suppliers of fireproof fabric used to protect the oil booms during burn-offs. This robust fabric is wrapped around the boom to provide enough protection to be used for several burn-offs.

Are there any more recent case studies that Mid Mountain Materials has been involved in that you would like to mention?

Mid-Mountain has been involved with several case studies. One of them is developing fabric for Fire curtains for commercial building which is under UL10 D testing. Another case study is anti-bio fouling resistant coated belting material for permanent oil boom for marine industries and Navy. We have also developed material for high heat tags and labels for metal processing industries, which can resist temperature up to 800 °F (426°C), and can be laser printed with bar codes.

Among others innovations, Mid-Mountain has contributed to revolutionary breakthroughs in flexible industrial ducting and removable insulation blankets.  Many of these highly specialized products were developed in response to customer specifications and requirements. Recently we have developed and successfully introduced a turbo cover for CAT mobile mining equipment in Australia. It insulates from high heat and is very durable, and also prevents fire from any oil or diesel leakage.

Mid-Mountain Materials has recently introduced Silica Yarn and Cordage to its SILTEX® line of silica products. Why are these products unique?

They are unique because of their high resistance to thermal shock, low thermal conductivity, minimal shrinkage, excellent acid and alkali resistance, and minimal weight loss on ignition. They operate continuously at temperatures up to 1800°F (982°C), and the yarn will not melt or vaporize until temperatures exceed 3000°F (1700°C).

What does the future hold for Mid-Mountain Materials? How do you see the industry changing in the next 10 years?

The future for Mid-Mountain is very bright. Recently our capability and capacity has been doubled with the addition of a new advanced coating line to our existing facility. We are ISO 9001:2008 certified, and a globally recognized company. We are customer focused, and our turnaround time is very fast. We are vertically integrated, with a broad range of resources being manufactured in-house.

It is easy to focus on clever engineering, or new product developments, and lose sight of what the future will actually be like. Our future is being shaped by technology and innovation, and is being driven by our commitment to exceed our customers’ expectations. Customer confidence and trust are most important to Mid-Mountain, and we value every job and project with the utmost importance.

Alpha’s core technologies are frequently used to create new materials for energy conservation, safety and process-specific applications. Among others innovations, Alpha has contributed to revolutionary breakthroughs in flexible industrial ducting and removable insulation blankets. Many of these highly specialized products were developed in response to customer specifications and requirements.

Globally enhanced thermal protection as well as safety and energy Conservations are, and will remain, the most growing and demanding field for years to come. The future of this industry will be led by the evolution of advanced high performance insulation materials, but they also have to be adaptive, friendly, safe and last but not least, cost-effective.

Mid-mountain’s core technologies are frequently used to create new materials for thermal protection, energy conservation, safety and process-specific applications.  Whether your requirements can be met by a current product or require an engineered solution, you can depend on Mid-Mountain for cost-effective materials that surpass your expectations for reliability and performance.

About Amulya Das

Amulya Das

Amulya Das is Director of Business Development at Mid-Mountain Materials, Inc., and is based at the company’s manufacturing facility in Arlington, Washington, USA.

Amulya is a Materials Scientist with  a degree in  Chemistry, and also has a Masters Degree in Chemical Technology with a specialization of Textile & Polymers Science from The Institute of Chemical Technology, Bombay, India.

As Director of Business Development, Amulya works closely with engineers and project managers to develop unique solutions that will address their applications challenges.

Prior to this role, Amulya served as the Manager of the Coating Division at Mid-Mountain, overseeing the manufacture of all standard and custom coated products.  

Amulya has 28 years of hands on working experience in manufacturing, engineering, design, and Research & Development with textiles, chemicals, and polymers as well as high performance materials.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Alessandro Pirolini

Written by

Alessandro Pirolini

Alessandro has a BEng (hons) in Material Science and Technology, specialising in Magnetic Materials, from the University of Birmingham. After graduating, he completed a brief spell working for an aerosol manufacturer and then pursued his love for skiing by becoming a Ski Rep in the Italian Dolomites for 5 months. Upon his return to the UK, Alessandro decided to use his knowledge of Material Science to secure a position within the Editorial Team at AZoNetwork. When not at work, Alessandro is often at Chill Factore, out on his road bike or watching Juventus win consecutive Italian league titles.


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