Replacing the mechanical check-valve in a Stirling engine with a micromachined, non-moving-part flow diode eliminates moving parts and reduces the risk of microparticle clogging.
At very small scales, helium gas has sufficient mass momentum that it can act as a flow controller in a similar way as a transistor can redirect electrical signals with a smaller bias signal. The innovation here forces helium gas to flow in predominantly one direction by offering a clear, straight-path microchannel in one direction of flow, but then through a sophisticated geometry, the reversed flow is forced through a tortuous path. This redirection is achieved by using microfluid channel flow to force the much larger main flow into this tortuous path.
While microdiodes have been developed in the past, this innovation cascades Tesla diodes to create a much higher pressure in the gas bearing supply plenum. In addition, the special shape of the leaves captures loose particles that would otherwise clog the microchannel of the gas bearing pads.
This work was done by Rodger Dyson for Glenn Research Center.
Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. LEW-18862-1