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Improved Position Sensor for Feedback Control of Levitation

In this application, an incandescent light bulb is preferable to a laser. An improved optoelectronic apparatus has been developed to provide the position feedback needed for controlling the levitation subsystem of a containerless processing system. As explained below, the advantage of this apparatus over prior optoelectronic apparatuses that have served this purpose stems from the use of an incandescent lamp, instead of a laser, to illuminate the levitated object.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Diffusion-Cooled Tantalum Hot-Electron Bolometer Mixers

Lower TC s should translate to lower noise and lower required local-oscillator power. A batch of experimental diffusion-cooled hot-electron bolometers (HEBs), suitable for use as mixers having input frequencies in the terahertz range and output frequencies up to about a gigahertz, exploit the superconducting/normal-conducting transition in a thin strip of tantalum. The design and operation of these HEB mixers are based on mostly the same principles as those of a prior HEB mixer that exploited the superconducting/ normal-conducting transition in a thin strip of niobium and that was described in “Diffusion-Cooled Hot-Electron Bolometer Mixer” (NPO-19719), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 21, No. 1 (January 1997), page 12a.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Electron-Spin Filters Based on the Rashba Effect

Filters would be made from nonmagnetic semiconductors and operated without applied magnetic fields. Semiconductor electron-spin filters of a proposed type would be based on the Rashba effect, which is described briefly below. Electron-spin filters — more precisely, sources of spin-polarized electron currents — have been sought for research on, and development of, the emerging technological discipline of spintronics (spin-based electronics). There have been a number of successful demonstrations of injection of spin-polarized electrons from diluted magnetic semiconductors and from ferromagnetic metals into nonmagnetic semiconductors. In contrast, a device according to the proposal would be made from nonmagnetic semiconductor materials and would function without an applied magnetic field.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Thermally Insulating, Kinematic Tensioned-Fiber Suspension

Tensioned polymer fibers afford both rigidity and high thermal resistance. Figure 1 shows a salt pill and some parts of a thermally insulating, kinematic suspension system that holds the salt pill rigidly in an adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator (ADR). “Salt pill” in this context denotes a unit comprising a cylindrical container, a matrix of gold wires in the container, and a cylinder of ferric ammonium alum (a paramagnetic salt) that has been deposited on the wires. The structural members used in this system for both thermal insulation and positioning are aromatic polyamide fibers (Kevlar® or equivalent) under tension.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Back Actuators for Segmented Mirrors and Other Applications

Actuation mechanisms could be simpler. Back actuators have been proposed as alternatives to edge actuators considered previously for use in aligning hexagonal segments of lightweight segmented astronomical mirrors planned for use in outer space. The proposed back actuators could also be useful on Earth as parts of wafer-conveyance systems in the semiconductor industry.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Mechanism for Self-Reacted Friction Stir Welding

This mechanism performs better than others that have been tried. A mechanism has been designed to apply the loads (the stirring and the resection forces and torques) in self-reacted friction stir welding. This mechanism differs somewhat from mechanisms used in conventional friction stir welding, as described below.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Simple Systems for Detecting Spacecraft Meteoroid Punctures

A report describes proposed systems to be installed in spacecraft to detect punctures by impinging meteoroids or debris. Relative to other systems that have been used for this purpose, the proposed systems would be simpler and more adaptable, and would demand less of astronauts' attention and of spacecraft power and computing resources. The proposed systems would include a thin, hollow, hermetically sealed panel containing an inert fluid at a pressure above the spacecraft cabin pressure. A transducer would monitor the pressure in the panel. It is assumed that an impinging object that punctures the cabin at the location of the panel would also puncture the panel. Because the volume of the panel would be much smaller than that of the cabin, the panel would lose its elevated pressure much faster than the cabin would lose its lower pressure. The transducer would convert the rapid pressure drop to an electrical signal that could trigger an alarm. Hence, the system would provide an immediate indication of the approximate location of a small impact leak, possibly in time to take corrective action before a large loss of cabin pressure could occur.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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