High-Performance Photocatalytic Oxidation Reactor System

Airborne volatile organic chemicals are oxidized using blue LEDs, fiber optics, and visible light-activated catalysts for space and terrestrial air purification. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama As crewed space missions extend beyond low Earth orbit, the need to reliably recover potable water is critical. Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the water is recycled from cabin humidity condensate, urine distillate, and hygiene wash wastes. In spacecraft cabin air environments, off-gassing from equipment, human metabolism, and human personal care products contributes to significant airborne concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These polar and water-soluble compounds ultimately dissolve into the humidity condensate and stress the process load, logistics costs, and lifecycle requirements of the water processing systems. The aim of this effort was to develop the High Performance Photocatalytic Oxidation Reactor System (HPPORS) technology for the destruction of airborne VOCs prior to reaching the water processing systems. This innovation will reduce the logistics costs and lifecycle requirements of water processing systems, and help extend NASA missions to include long-duration space habitation and lunar and Mars colonization missions.

Posted in: Briefs, Recycling Technologies, Remediation Technologies, LEDs, Fiber Optics, Photonics


Optical Fiber for Solar Cells

These materials enable new solar-powered devices that are small, lightweight, and can be used without connection to existing electrical grids. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California Polymeric and inorganic semiconductors offer relatively high quantum efficiencies, and are much less expensive and versatile to fabricate than non-amorphous silicon wafers. An optical fiber and cladding can be designed and fabricated to confine light for transport within ultraviolet and near-infrared media, using evanescent waves, and to transmit visible wavelength light for direct lighting.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Fiber Optics


Carbon Nanotube Tower-Based Supercapacitor

A new technology to create electrochemical double-layer supercapacitors is provided using carbon nanotubes as electrodes of the storage medium. This invention allows efficient transport between the capacitor electrodes through the porous nature of the nanotubes, and has a low interface resistance between the electrode material and the collector. Carbon nanotubes directly grown on a metal surface are used to improve the supercapacitor performance. The nanotubes offer a high surface area and usable porosity for a given volume and mass, both of which are highly desirable for supercapacitor operation.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy Storage


Developing Ceramic-Like Bulk Metallic Glass Gears

This technology has applications in gears, bearings, and gearboxes for automotive, spacecraft, and robotics. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California This invention describes systems and methods for implementing bulk metallic glass-based (BMG) macroscale gears with high wear resistance. This invention creates bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) with selected mechanical properties that are very similar to ceramics, such as high strength and resistance to wear, but without high melting temperatures. Ceramics are high-strength, hard materials that are typically used for their extremely high melting temperatures. Because of their extreme hardness, ceramics are optimal materials for making gears, due to their low wear loss. Unfortunately, ceramics suffer from low fracture toughness (typically <1 MPa·m1/2), and their high melting temperatures prevent them from being cast into net-shaped parts. Ceramic gears, for example, must be ground to a final shape at great expense.

Posted in: Briefs, Ceramics, Metals


Modeling Transmission Effects on Multilayer Insulation

New mathematical modeling of multilayer insulation performance extends over a much wider range of performance criteria than other known models. John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida Recent experimental results within the NASA community have shown apparent degradation in the performance of multilayer insulation (MLI) when used in low-temperature applications, e.g., in liquid hydrogen tanks. There was speculation that this degradation was due to the appearance of radiative transmission of energy at these low temperatures since the black-body emission curve at low temperatures corresponds to long wavelengths that might be able to partially pass through the MLI sheets. The standard models for MLI could not be extended to include transmission effects, so a new mathematical system was developed that generalizes the description of the performance of this insulation material.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Coatings & Adhesives


Woven Thermal Protection System

Woven thermal protection system (WTPS) is a new approach to producing TPS materials that uses precisely engineered 3D weaving techniques to customize material characteristics needed to meet specific missions requirements for protecting space vehicles from the intense heating generated during atmospheric entry. Using WTPS, sustainable, scalable, mission-optimized TPS solutions can be achieved with relatively low lifecycle costs compared with the high costs and long development schedules currently associated with material development and certification. WTPS leverages the mature weaving technology that has evolved from the textile industry to design TPS materials with tailorable performance by varying material composition and properties via the controlled placement of fibers within a woven structure. The resulting material can be designed to perform optimally for a wide range of entry conditions.

Posted in: Briefs


Innovative, Low-CTE, Lightweight Structures with Higher Strength

These composites feature controllable properties and strength. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland A series of lightweight (density below 2.0 gm/cm3) composites has been manufactured that have controllable properties. The core composite has been improved to provide higher strength (similar to aluminum), extremely low density, receptivity to exterior coatings, and highly designable properties. The composite is made in days, is machinable and formable, can be joined/threaded, can be exposed to various environments (temperature, radiation), and is easily made into many parts. Lightweight mirrors for space and IR applications are extremely important. The goal of this work was to create lightweight multifunctional composites for replacement of titanium, beryllium, Invar, aluminum, rubber, and graphite epoxy for structural, mirror, and non-structural components. The key characteristics of this tailorable composite are low density, high stiffness (up to 25 MSI modulus), variable/low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) (2 to 7 ppm/°C), high temperature refractory materials and variable thermal conductivity. The composites are easily made (time to completion of 7 to 10 days), joinable, threadable, machinable to 80 mils, durable to resist FOD (foreign object damage), ductile enough to behave like a metal, and relatively low in cost.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Coatings & Adhesives, Composites