The characterization of polymers can be a diverse process involving many different techniques. When dealing with an oxygen environment, the identification of compatible polymeric materials is essential, especially in an ever changing chlorofluorocarbon solvent-free world. At the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), this task is accomplished by the Materials Science Division. Infrared analysis (IRS) is the technique used to identify molecular structure, and along with chemical or electronic separation techniques, additives or contaminants can be identified. Other techniques such as thermal analysis can be used to identify transitional changes and suggest similar versus different chemical compositions. X-ray Photoelectron Microscopy (XPS) can identify surface composition or degradation and elemental ratios. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) addresses outgassing properties and their effect on the oxygen environment. This paper will address the forensics of polymer identification using such combination techniques as IRS and thermal analysis, and highlight other techniques utilized in this challenging effort.
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