Kennedy Space Center Partnerships: This color-changing tape can pinpoint leaks which are odorless and colorless, and can visually notify operators instantaneously. by Steven E. Cain
'It is easy to use and has the potential to save lives, property, and environmental damage caused by hazardous hydrogen leaks during storage and transport.
'In 2004, NASA KSC, one of the largest consumers of hydrogen (for use as rocket fuel), began looking for a simple, visual means of detecting hydrogen leaks on its complex launch systems. As the smallest and lightest of atoms, hydrogen escapes through the tiniest of cracks. That makes it a hazard, as the element is highly flammable. NASA needed a product that was easy to install, weather resistant, sun and thermal stable, and durable. A NASA program manager reached out to Dr. Ali Raissi, a mechanical engineer working in hydrogen research and development at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, for a solution. Raissi conceived of a color-changing concept for a visual cue and put together a team of chemists, Drs. Nazim Muradov and Nahid Mohajeri, to develop the product.
'The result, now known as Intellipigment™, is an inexpensive, portable, and simple-to-use tape that can be wrapped around pipes, flanges, fittings, and valves where possible leaks may occur. The tape changes color (going from beige to black) in the presence of hydrogen gas in less than three minutes when concentrations as low as 1% are detected, well before reaching the explosive combustion threshold of 4%. This is important for the gamut of industries where hydrogen leaks pose a threat, including aerospace, power generation, and energy storage.'