Low-Temperature Flex Durability of Fabrics for Polar Sleds
COLD REGIONS RESEARCH AND ENGINEERING LAB HANOVER NH
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Lightweight fuel-bladder sleds are remarkably efficient and less expensive than conventional steel sleds for Antarctic resupply traverses. However, a significant fraction of fuel bladders develop cracks after being emptied and folded for return transport and storage. We conducted low-temperature flex-durability tests of existing and candidate bladder materials to understand the fold-cracking problems and to seek more durable materials. The fabric specimens underwent repeated cycles of severe twisting and folding at -40 C, after which the specimens were checked for leaks by using an air-permeability test. Remarkably, the existing bladder material could withstand hundreds of cycles before cracking and leaking, and it performed better than tested alternatives. We speculate that months-long folded storage of bladders causes stress-relaxation in the polymer coating at tight folds, and pre-season unfolding then induces tensile cracking. In 2013, the South Pole Traverse SPoT acted on our recommendation to transport and store empty bladders inflated. They reported very promising results no leaks in bladders and shorter preparation times for sled reuse. The flex-durability tests also identified very durable materials to build enclosure pouches for air-ride cargo sleds ARCS. ARCS have the potential to transport rigid and out-size cargo as efficiently as fuel in bladder sleds.
- Coatings, Colorants and Finishes
- Surface Transportation and Equipment