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Catalytic-Metal/ PdOx/SiC Schottky-Diode Gas Sensors

PdOx layers inhibit the undesired formation of metal silicides. Miniaturized hydrogen- and hydrocarbon- gas sensors, heretofore often consisting of Schottky diodes based on catalytic metal in contact with SiC, can be improved by incorporating palladium oxide (PdOx, where 0≤x≤1) between the catalytic metal and the SiC.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Harnessing the Power of the Sun

The Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) Alliance was created in 1994 and operated for 9 years as a NASA-sponsored coalition of 28 members from small companies, government, universities, and nonprofit organizations. ERAST's goal was to foster development of remotely piloted aircraft technology for scientific, humanitarian, and commercial purposes. Some of the aircraft in the ERAST Alliance were intended to fly unmanned at high altitudes for days at a time, and flying for such durations required alternative sources of power that did not add weight. The most successful solution for this type of sustained flight is the lightest solar energy. Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. They are made of semi-conducting materials similar to those used in computer chips. When sunlight is absorbed, electrons are knocked loose from their atoms, allowing electricity to flow.

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Graded-Index “Whispering-Gallery” Optical Microresonators

Improvements would include equidistant resonances and reduced evanescent field. Graded-index-of- refraction dielectric optical microresonators have been proposed as a superior alternative to prior dielectric optical microresonators, which include microspheres (described in several prior NASA Tech Briefs articles) and microtori wherein electromagnetic waves propagate along circumferential paths in “whispering-gallery” modes. The design and method of fabrication of the proposed microresonators would afford improved performance by exploiting a combination of the propagation characteristics of the whisperinggallery modes and the effect of a graded index of refraction on the modes.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Exact Tuning of High-Q Optical Microresonators by Use of UV

Resonance frequencies can be shifted permanently by controlled amounts. In one of several alternative approaches to the design and fabrication of a "whispering-gallery" optical microresonator of high resonance quality (high Q), the index of refraction of the resonator material and, hence, the resonance frequencies (which depend on the index of refraction) are tailored by use of ultraviolet (UV) light. The principles of operation of optical microresonators, and other approaches to the design and fabrication of optical microresonators, have been described in prior NASA Tech Briefs articles, including the two immediately preceding this one.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Valiant Zero-Valent Effort Restores Contaminated Grounds

Dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) are chemical compounds that can contaminate soil and groundwater to the point of irreparability. These substances are only slightly soluble in water, and are much denser than water. Because of their solubility, DNAPLs form separate liquid phases in groundwater, and because of their density, DNAPLs sink in aquifers instead of floating at the water table, making it extremely difficult to detect their presence. If left untreated in the ground, they can taint fresh water sources.

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Manufacture of Sparse-Spectrum Optical Microresonators

Multiple units having the same spectral parameters could be produced. An alternative design for dielectric optical microresonators and a relatively simple process to fabricate them have been proposed. The proposed microresonators would exploit the same basic physical phenomena as those of microtorus optical resonators and of the microsphere optical resonators described in several prior NASA Tech Briefs articles. The resonances in such devices are associated with the propagation of electromagnetic waves along circumferential.paths in “whispering-gallery” modes. The main advantage afforded by the proposal is that the design and the fabrication process are expected to be amenable to production of multiple microresonators having reproducible spectral parameters — including, most notably, high values of the resonance quality factor (Q) and reproducible resonance frequencies.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Then Why Do They Call Earth the Blue Planet?

While the most common photographs of Earth taken from space show the planet covered in blue water, NASA has managed to produce detailed color images, using satellite imagery, that show the remarkable variation of colors that actually make up the oceanic surface. An ocean's color is determined by the interaction of surface waters with sunlight, and surface waters can contain any number of different particles and dissolved substances, which could then change the color.

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