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Permanent Sequestration of Emitted Gases in the Form of Clathrate Hydrates

Hydrates would be formed under natural conditions. Underground sequestration has been proposed as a novel method of permanent disposal of harmful gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of human activity. The method was conceived primarily for disposal of carbon dioxide (CO2, greenhouse gas causing global warming), but could also be applied to CO, H2S, NOx, and chorofluorocarbons (CFCs, which are super greenhouse gases). The method is based on the fact that clathrate hydrates (e.g., CO2×6H2O) form naturally from the substances in question (e.g., CO2) and liquid water in the pores of sub-permafrost rocks at stabilizing pressures and temperatures. The proposed method would be volumetrically efficient: In the case of CO2, each volume of hydrate can contain as much as 184 volumes of gas.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Electrochemical, H2O2-Boosted Catalytic Oxidation System

This system offers several advantages over O2-boosted systems.An improved water-sterilizing aqueous-phase catalytic oxidation system (APCOS) is based partly on the electrochemical generation of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This H2O2-boosted system offers significant improvements over prior dissolved-oxygen water-sterilizing systems in the way in which it increases oxidation capabilities, supplies H2O2 when needed, reduces the total organic carbon (TOC) content of treated water to a low level, consumes less energy than prior systems do, reduces the risk of contamination, and costs less to operate. This system was developed as a variant of part of an improved waste-management subsystem of the life-support system of a spacecraft. Going beyond its original intended purpose, it offers the advantage of being able to produce H2O2 on demand for surface sterilization and/or decontamination: this is a major advantage inasmuch as the benign byproducts of this H2O2 system, unlike those of systems that utilize other chemical sterilants, place no additional burden of containment control on other spacecraft air- or water-reclamation systems.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Electrokinetic In Situ Treatment of Metal-Contaminated Soil

This is an alternative to excavation and to techniques dependent on hydraulic conductivity.  An electrokinetic technique has been developed as a means of in situ remediation of soils, sludges, and sediments that are contaminated with heavy metals. Examples of common metal contaminants that can be removed by this technique include cadmium, chromium, zinc, lead, mercury, and radionuclides. Some organic contaminants can also be removed by this technique.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Sensor for Monitoring Nanodevice-Fabrication Plasmas

Temperature and trace amounts of chemical species could be measured in situ.  The term "plasma process diagnostics" (PPD) refers to a spectroscopic technique and sensing hardware that have been proposed for monitoring plasma processes used to fabricate electronic devices that feature sizes as small as several nanometers. Nanometer dimensions are characteristic of the quantum level of miniaturization, where single impurity atoms or molecules can drastically change the local properties of the nanostructures. Such changes may be purposely used in nanoscale design but may also be extremely damaging or cause improper operation of the fabricated devices. Determination of temperature and densities of reactants near the developing features is important, since the structural synthesis is affected by characteristics of the local microenvironment. Consequently, sensors capable of nonintrusive monitoring with high sensitivity and high resolution are essential for real-time atomistic control of reaction kinetics and minimizing trace contamination in plasma processes used to fabricate electronic nanodevices. Such process-monitoring sensors are required to be compact, multiparametric, and immune to the harsh environments of processing plasmas. PPD is intended to satisfy these requirements.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Freeze-Tolerant Condensers

Two designs offer similar advantages. Two condensers designed for use in dissipating heat carried by working fluids feature two-phase, self-adjusting configurations such that their working lengths automatically vary to suit their input power levels and/or heat-sink temperatures. A key advantage of these condensers is that they can function even if the temperatures of their heat sinks fall below the freezing temperatures of their working fluids and the fluids freeze. The condensers can even be restarted from the frozen condition.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Champagne Heat Pump

Relatively safe and environmentally benign working fluids can be used.  The term "champagne heat pump" denotes a developmental heat pump that exploits a cycle of absorption and desorption of carbon dioxide in an alcohol or other organic liquid. Whereas most heat pumps in common use in the United States are energized by mechanical compression, the champagne heat pump is energized by heating.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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The StarLight Space Interferometer

Two papers describe the StarLight space interferometer — a Michelson interferometer that would be implemented by two spacecraft flying in formation. The StarLight formation flying interferometer project has been testing and demonstrating engineering concepts for a new generation of space interferometers that would be employed in a search for extrasolar planets and in astrophysical investigations. As described in the papers, the original StarLight concept called for three spacecraft, and the main innovation embodied is a modification that makes it possible to reduce complexity by eliminating the third spacecraft. The main features of the modification are (1) introduction of an optical delay line on one spacecraft and (2) controlling the flying formation such that the two spacecraft are located at two points along a specified parabola so as to define the required baseline of specified length (which could be varied up to 125 m) perpendicular to the axis of the parabola. One of the papers presents a detailed description of the optical layout and discusses computational modeling of the performance; the other paper presents an overview of the requirements for operation and design, the overall architecture, and subsystems.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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