Method for Asteroid Volatile Extraction in Space

The method would support human missions to Mars or other distant objects.Some meteorites representative of certain classes of asteroids are 25% or more water by weight. This is consistent with infrared spectra of some asteroids, indicating hydrated minerals are abundant in some varieties of carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. Since water is very valuable in space, it would be desirable to be able to process asteroids to recover this water and other volatiles. The Asteroid Redirect Mission concept has formulated a method for returning asteroids of 1,000-ton mass into the Earth-Moon system orbit using only ~10 tons of propellant. If ~25% of that returned asteroid mass were recovered as volatiles and solar power used to make those volatiles into propellant, then the overall system would generate approximately 25 times as much propellant as it uses. This could be used to make sustainable human missions to Mars or otherwise spread humanity into the solar system.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Fluid Handling


Improving Stirling Engine Performance Through Optimized Piston and Displacer Motion

Stirling engines typically achieve high efficiency, but lack power density. Low power density prevents them from being used in many applications where internal combustion engines are viable competitors, and increases system costs in applications that require Stirling engines. This limits their operating envelope in both terrestrial and space applications. Sinusoidal piston and displacer motion is one of the causes of low power density. Previous work proposed solving this problem by replacing sinusoidal waveforms with waveforms that more closely approximate those of the ideal Stirling cycle. However, when working with real engines, imposing ideal waveforms has been shown to reduce power density and efficiency due to increased pressure drop through the regenerator and heat exchangers.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Fluid Handling, Motors & Drives


Biomarker Sensor System and Method for Multi-Color Imaging and Processing of Single-Molecule Life Signatures

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory offers a method to manufacture biomarker sensor arrays with nanoscale resolution and active regions on the order of 1 micron by applying nanolithographic direct-write techniques to the fabrication of Silane chemistry sensors on a transparent substrate. This novel technology enables extremely fine patterns of detectors suitable for multicolor imaging of single-molecule samples at resolutions far below the diffraction limit. The extremely small size of these sensors allows for rapid, highly specific screening for hundreds of functionalities within a single, small, integrated microfluidics chip.

Posted in: Briefs, White Papers, Sensors


Device and Method of Scintillating Quantum Dots for Radiation Imaging

Potential applications include medical imaging and aircraft inspection.NASA’s Langley Re search Center has developed Scintillating Quantum Dots for Imaging X-rays (SQDIX) technology that enables the creation of x-ray detectors that are more sensitive than current x-ray detectors. In addition to superior sensitivity, SQDIX also offers the promise of reducing the cost of x-ray detectors by at least a factor of 10. Simply stated, SQDIX has the potential to change the way that x-ray detection is done.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging, Sensors


Lightning Protection and Detection System

An array of SansEC sensors can cover a selective area of the aircraft surface, providing both mitigation and damage sensing.NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a sensor technology for structural health monitoring on composite aircraft surfaces. When conventional aircraft are struck by lightning, the result can range from no damage to serious damage requiring extensive repairs that can take the airplane out of service for an extended period of time. The SansEC technology is a proven wireless sensing platform capable of measuring the electrical impedance of physical matter in proximity to the sensor based on a change in its resonance response. The sensor also exhibits a unique characteristic to disperse the lightning strike current to help mitigate lightning damage. In this application, an array of SansEC sensors will cover a selective area of the aircraft surface, providing both mitigation and damage sensing.

Posted in: Briefs, Aviation, Sensors


Gas Sensors with Contact Pads

This technology can be used for in situ leak detection, emissions monitoring, and pressure measurements.Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed advanced hydrogen and hydrocarbon gas sensors capable of detecting leaks, monitoring emissions, and providing in situ measurements of gas composition and pressure. These compact, rugged sensors can be used to optimize combustion and lower emissions, and they are designed to withstand harsh, high-temperature environments (e.g., silicon carbide (SiC) sensors can operate at 600 °C). NASA Glenn is actively seeking industrial partners to develop and apply these cutting-edge sensors cooperatively in new applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors


Minimally Intrusive Thin-Film Electrical Insulation on Conductive Surfaces

This innovation can be used to insulate conductive substrates prior to applying thin-film sensors such as strain gauges and thermocouples.The use of thin-film sensors has several advantages over wire or foil sensors. For example, thin-film sensors do not require special machining of the components on which they are mounted, and, with thicknesses less than 10 μm, they are considerably thinner than wires or foils. The thin-film sensors are thus much less disturbing to the operating environment, and have a minimal impact on the physical characteristics of the supporting component.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors


The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.