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Lightweight Exoskeletons With Controllable Actuators

Resistive or assistive forces and torques would be generated on command. A proposed class of lightweight exoskeletal electromechanical systems would include electrically controllable actuators that would generate torques and forces that, depending on specific applications, would resist and/or assist wearers’ movements. The proposed systems would be successors to relatively heavy, bulky, and less capable human strength amplifying exoskeletal electromechanical systems that have been subjects of research during the past four decades. The proposed systems could be useful in diverse applications in which there are needs for systems that could be donned or doffed easily, that would exert little effect when idle, and that could be activated on demand: examples of such applications include (1) providing controlled movement and/or resistance to movement for physical exercise and (2) augmenting wearers’ strengths in the performance of military, law-enforcement, and industrial tasks.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Miniature Robotic Submarine for Exploring Harsh Environments

Extreme miniaturization would enable exploration of previously inaccessible regions. The miniature autonomous submersible explorer (MASE) has been proposed as a means of scientific exploration—especially, looking for signs of life—in harsh, relatively inaccessible underwater environments. Basically, the MASE would be a small instrumented robotic submarine (see figure) that could launch itself or could be launched from another vehicle. Examples of environments that might be explored by use of the MASE include subglacial lakes, deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, acidic or alkaline lakes, brine lenses in permafrost, and ocean regions under Antarctic ice shelves.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Rotating Vessels for Growing Protein Crystals

Rotation would ameliorate adverse effects of gravitation. Rotating vessels have been proposed as means of growing larger, more nearly uniform protein crystals than would otherwise be possible in the presence of normal Earth gravitation. Heretofore, nonrotating vessels have been used.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Oscillating-Linear-Drive Vacuum Compressor for CO2

A vacuum compressor has been designed to compress CO2 from ˜1 psia (˜6.9 kPa absolute pressure) to ˜75 psia (˜0.52 MPa), to be insensitive to moisture, to have a long operational life, and to be lightweight, compact, and efficient. The compressor consists mainly of (1) a compression head that includes hydraulic diaphragms, a gas-compression diaphragm, and check valves; and (2) oscillating linear drive that includes a linear motor and a drive spring, through which compression force is applied to the hydraulic diaphragms. The motor is driven at the resonance vibrational frequency of the motor/spring/compression-head system, the compression head acting as a damper that takes energy out of the oscillation. The net effect of the oscillation is to cause cyclic expansion and contraction of the gas-compression diaphragm, and, hence, of the volume bounded by this diaphragm. One-way check valves admit gas into this volume from the low-pressure side during expansion and allow the gas to flow out to the high-pressure side during contraction. Fatigue data and the results of diaphragm stress calculations have been interpreted as signifying that the compressor can be expected to have an operational life of >30 years with a confidence level of 99.9 percent.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Mechanically Biased, Hinged Pairs of Piezoelectric Benders

Unit cells can be stacked to obtain greater stroke for a given voltage. The upper part of the figure depicts an actuator that comprises two mechanically biased piezoelectric benders hinged together at their ends and equipped with tabs at their mid-length points for attachment to the relatively moving objects that are to be actuated. In the example of the figure, the attachment tabs are labeled to indicate that the actuator is used to drive a pump piston relative to a base plate. Actuators of this type could be used to drive lowpower, small-volume pumps in consumer, medical, and aerospace applications, and to generate and measure linear displacements in such robotic applications as teleoperation and tactile feedback. Each bender is a bimorph — a unitary plate that comprises an upper and a lower piezoelectric layer plus electrode layers. Benders may also be made of several layers arranged to produce the same effect at the lower operating voltages. As stated above, each bender is mechanically biased; it is fabricated to have a small permanent curvature (the bias curvature) in the absence of applied voltage. As on other bimorphs, the electrical connections on each bender are arranged so that an applied voltage of suitable polarity causes the upper layer to expand and the lower layer to contract. In this case, the net effect of applying the voltage is that the plate becomes more concave as viewed from below. Conversely, an applied voltage of the opposite polarity causes the plate to become less concave as viewed from below.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Five-Axis, Three-Magnetic-Bearing Dynamic Spin Rig

Higher-order vibrational modes can be excited and higher rotational speeds attained. The Five-Axis, Three-Magnetic-Bearing Dynamic Spin Rig is an apparatus for vibration testing of turbomachine blades in a vacuum at rotational speeds from 0 to 40,000 rpm. This rig (see figure) includes (1) a vertically oriented shaft on which is mounted an assembly comprising a rotor holding the blades to be tested, (2) two actively controlled heteropolar radial magnetic bearings at opposite ends of the shaft, and (3) an actively controlled magnetic thrust bearing at the upper end of the shaft.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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System Regulates the Water Contents of Fuel-Cell Streams

An assembly of devices provides for both humidification of the reactant gas streams of a fuel cell and removal of the product water (the water generated by operation of the fuel cell). The assembly includes externally-sensing forward-pressure regulators that supply reactant gases (fuel and oxygen) at variable pressures to ejector reactant pumps. The ejector supply pressures depend on the consumption flows. The ejectors develop differential pressures approximately proportional to the consumption flow rates at constant system pressure and with constant flow restriction between the mixer-outlet and suction ports of the ejectors. For removal of product water from the circulating oxygen stream, the assembly includes a water/gas separator that contains hydrophobic and hydrophilic membranes. The water separator imposes an approximately constant flow restriction, regardless of the quality of the two phase flow that enters it from the fuel cell. The gas leaving the water separator is nearly 100 percent humid. This gas is returned to the inlet of the fuel cell along with a quantity of dry incoming oxygen, via the oxygen ejector, thereby providing some humidification.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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