Special Coverage

Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research
Small Robot Has Outstanding Vertical Agility
Smart Optical Material Characterization System and Method
Lightweight, Flexible Thermal Protection System for Fire Protection

Two-Dimensional Synthetic-Aperture Radiometer

Aperture synthesis is employed to reduce antenna mass. A two-dimensional synthetic-aperture radiometer, now undergoing development, serves as a test bed for demonstrating the potential of aperture synthesis for remote sensing of the Earth, particularly for measuring spatial distributions of soil moisture and ocean-surface salinity. The goal is to use the technology for remote sensing aboard a spacecraft in orbit, but the basic principles of design and operation are applicable to remote sensing from aboard an aircraft, and the prototype of the system under development is designed for operation aboard an aircraft.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Remote sensing, Aircraft, Spacecraft


A One-Dimensional Synthetic-Aperture Microwave Radiometer

Phased microwave feed horns would be arrayed sparsely along a cylindrical parabolic reflector.A proposed one-dimensional synthetic-aperture microwave radiometer could serve as an alternative to either the two-dimensional synthetic-aperture radiometer described in the immediately preceding article or to a prior one-dimensional one, denoted the Electrically Scanned Thinned Array Radiometer (ESTAR), mentioned in that article. The proposed radiometer would operate in a “pushbroom” imaging mode, utilizing (1) interferometric cross-track scanning to obtain cross-track resolution and (2) the focusing property of a reflector for along-track resolution.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Radar


Electrical Switching of Perovskite Thin-Film Resistors

Physical properties are altered in useful ways by applying electrical pulses. Electronic devices that exploit electrical switching of physical properties of thin films of perovskite materials (especially colossal magnetoresistive materials) have been invented. Unlike some related prior devices, these devices function at room temperature and do not depend on externally applied magnetic fields. Devices of this type can be designed to function as sensors (exhibiting varying electrical resistance in response to varying temperature, magnetic field, electric field, and/or mechanical pressure) and as elements of electronic memories.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Electronic equipment, Sensors and actuators, Switches, Magnetic materials


Electrically Variable Resistive Memory Devices

Data are written or read using larger or smaller current pulses, respectively.Nonvolatile electronic memory devices that store data in the form of electrical-resistance values, and memory circuits based on such devices, have been invented. These devices and circuits exploit an electrically-variableresistance phenomenon that occurs in thin films of certain oxides that exhibit the colossal magnetoresistive (CMR) effect. It is worth emphasizing that, as stated in the immediately preceding article, these devices function at room temperature and do not depend on externally applied magnetic fields.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Integrated circuits, Data management, Storage, Magnetic materials


Improved Attachment in a Hybrid Inflatable Pressure Vessel

Care is taken to distribute loads and maintain desired shapes.Some modifications that could be made, separately or together, have been conceived as improvements of the generic design of a structure of the type described in “Hybrid Inflatable Pressure Vessel” (MSC-23024/92), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 4 (April 2004), page 44. To recapitulate: The vessel is a hybrid that comprises an inflatable shell attached to a rigid structure. The inflatable shell is, itself, a hybrid that comprises (1) a pressure bladder restrained against expansion by (2) a restraint layer that comprises a web of straps made from high-strength polymeric fabrics. The present improvements are intended to overcome deficiencies in those aspects of the original design that pertain to attachment of the inflatable shell to the rigid structure. In a typical intended application, such attachment(s) would be made at one or more window or hatch frames to incorporate the windows or hatches as integral parts of the overall vessel.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping


Electrostatic Separator for Beneficiation of Lunar Soil

Process complexity may be significantly reduced.A charge separator has been constructed for use in a lunar environment that will allow for separation of minerals from lunar soil. Any future lunar base and habitat must be constructed from strong, dense materials to provide for thermal and radiation protection. It has been proposed that lunar soil may meet this need, and sintering of full-scale bricks has been accomplished using lunar simulant. In the present experiments, whole lunar dust as received was used. The approach taken here was that beneficiation of ores into an industrial feedstock grade may be more efficient. Refinement or enrichment of specific minerals in the soil before it is chemically processed may be more desirable as it would reduce the size and energy requirements necessary to produce the virgin material, and it may significantly reduce the process complexity. The principle is that minerals of different composition and work function will charge differently when tribocharged against different materials, and hence be separated in an electric field. The charge separator is constructed of two parallel copper plates separated by a variable distance in a vacuumcompatible box. The top and bottom of the box are designed so that the separation and angle between the plates can be varied. The box has a removable front plate for access, and each plate is connected to a high-voltage, vacuumcompatible connector that connects to feedthroughs in a vacuum chamber. Each plate is respectively powered by positive and negative high-voltage regulated DC power modules. Tribocharged dust is fed into the top through a small hole, where it is subjected to an intense electric field generated between the plates. Positively charged particles will be attracted to the negative plate, while negatively charged particles will be attracted to the positive plate. Dust collected on each plate and on filter paper in the collection box at the bottom of the plates can then be weighed to determine the mass-fraction separation. Because this device is meant for use in a lunar environment, much higher voltages can be used where there is no gas breakdown. Special care was taken in the design of the high-voltage connections to the separator plates. Pure copper plates and other materials were chosen for their low outgassing properties. Modeling of particle trajectories within the plates showed that for the Q/M (charge to mass ratio) measurements of the charged particles in vacuum, a smaller, more compact separator can be used on the Moon compared to the same device on Earth. Another advantage of this design is that, in the lower gravity environment of the Moon, particles will spend more time falling between the plates. Again, a smaller device and higher voltages can use this advantage to increase the efficiency of the lunar soil beneficiation process. This work was done by Jacqueline Quinn, and Ellen Arens of NASA Kennedy Space Center, Steve Trigwell of ASRC Aerospace, and James Captain of the University of Central Florida. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Manufacturing & Prototyping category. KSC-13007

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Soils, Chemicals, Materials properties, Construction vehicles and equipment, Spacecraft


Wider-Opening Dewar Flasks for Cryogenic Storage

Dewar flasks have been proposed as containers for relatively long-term (25 days) storage of perishable scientific samples or other perishable objects at a temperature of –175 °C. The refrigeration would be maintained through slow boiling of liquid nitrogen (LN2). For the purposes of the application for which these containers were proposed, (1) the neck openings of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) Dewar flasks are too small for most NASA samples; (2) the round shapes of the COTS containers give rise to unacceptably low efficiency of packing in rectangular cargo compartments; and (3) the COTS containers include metal structures that are too thermally conductive, such that they cannot, without exceeding size and weight limits, hold enough LN2 for the required long-term-storage.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Performance upgrades, Containers, Storage, Refrigerants


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