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Technical Paper

Development of Vapor Phase Hydrogen Peroxide Sterilization Process for Spacecraft Applications

In order to meet microbial reduction requirements for all Mars in-situ life detection and sample return missions, entire planetary spacecraft (including planetary entry probes and planetary landing capsules) may have to be exposed to a qualified sterilization process. At JPL, we are developing a low temperature (~45°C) vapor phase hydrogen peroxide sterilization process. This process is currently being used by the medical industry and its effectiveness is well established. In order to effectively and safely apply this technology to sterilize a spacecraft, which is made out of various man-made materials and electronic circuit boards, the following technical issues need to be resolved: 1. Efficacy of sterilization process. 2. Diffusion of H2O2 under sterilization process conditions into hard to reach places. 3. Materials and components compatibility with the sterilization process. 4. Development of methodology to protect (isolate) sensitive components (i.e. electronic ) from H2O2 vapor.
Journal Article

Off-Gassing and Particle Release by Heated Polymeric Materials

Polymers are one of the major constituents in electrical components. A study investigating pre-combustion off-gassing and particle release by polymeric materials over a range of temperatures can provide an understanding of thermal degradation prior to failure which may result in a fire hazard. In this work, we report simultaneous measurements of pre-combustion vapor and particle release by heated polymeric materials. The polymer materials considered for the current study are silicone and Kapton. The polymer samples were heated over the range 20 to 400°C. Response to vapor releases were recorded using the JPL Electronic Nose (ENose) and Industrial Scientific's ITX gas monitor configured to detect hydrogen chloride (HCl), carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Particle release was monitored using a TSI P-TRAK particle counter.