NASA Simulator Recreates Space Dust

A team of scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, has successfully reproduced, on Earth, the processes that occur in the atmosphere of a red giant star and lead to the formation of planet-forming interstellar dust.Using a specialized facility, called the Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmIC), scientists now are able to recreate and study dust grains similar to the grains that form in the outer layers of dying stars. Scientists plan to use the dust to gather clues to better understand the composition and the evolution of the universe.In the past, the inability to simulate space conditions in the gaseous state prevented scientists from identifying unknown matter. Because conditions in space are vastly different from conditions on Earth, it is challenging to identify extraterrestrial materials. Thanks to COSmIC, researchers can successfully simulate gas-phase environments similar to interstellar clouds, stellar envelopes, or planetary atmospheres environments by expanding gases using a cold jet spray of argon gas seeded with hydrocarbons that cools down the molecules to temperatures representative of these environments.COSmIC integrates a variety of state-of-the-art instruments to allow scientists to recreate space conditions in the laboratory to form, process, and monitor simulated planetary and interstellar materials. The chamber is the heart of the system. It recreates the extreme conditions that reign in space where interstellar molecules and ions float in a vacuum at densities that are billionths of Earth's atmosphere.SourceAlso: Learn about Coatings for Lunar Dust Removal.

Posted in: Materials, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, Aerospace, News


Self-Repairing Plastic Regenerates After Damage

Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. The restorative material is delivered through two, isolated fluid streams (dyed red and blue). The liquid immediately gels and later hardens, resulting in recovery of the entire damaged region. For regenerating materials, two adjoining, parallel capillaries are filled with regenerative chemicals that flow out when damage occurs. The two liquids mix to form a gel, which spans the gap caused by damage, filling in cracks and holes. Then the gel hardens into a strong polymer, restoring the plastic’s mechanical strength.Such self-repair capabilities would be a boon not only for commercial goods – imagine a mangled car bumper that repairs itself within minutes of an accident – but also for parts and products that are difficult to replace or repair, such as those used in aerospace applications.SourceAlso: Learn about new Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: Materials, Plastics, Aerospace, News


Cyberlearning Platforms Improve Design Collaboration

Two new "cyberlearning" platforms allow non-artists to create illustrations rivaling the work of expert designers. The platforms sidestep a key creative barrier by eliminating the need for drawing skills in developing new designs. "Non-experts are becoming more empowered and interested in means of creative self-expression," said Karthik Ramani, Purdue University's Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "More importantly, I think this is the beginning of a new field of computer-supported creativity where you are extending the human mind." The new platforms — called skWiki (pronounced squeaky) and Juxtapoze — may usher in a new era of digital-scribbling and creative collaboration. The platforms operate on servers and do not require users to install any software. The skWiki platform allows collaboration with multimedia, including text, sketches, photos and "vector images" important for computer-aided design and other applications. Source Also: Learn about a Workflow-Based Software Development Environment.

Posted in: Software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), News


Earth-Sized Exoplanet Discovered via Observatory Data

The National Science Foundation-funded Gemini observatory helped confirm the first potentially habitable Earth-sized exoplanet. Researchers say this discovery is unique because the planet, called Kepler-186f, resides in a temperate region around its host star where water could exist and could possibly sustain life. Earth-sized planets are very difficult to detect because of contrast with their host stars.

Posted in: Imaging, Aerospace, News


Wind Tunnel Tests Support Improved Design of B61-12 Bomb

Sandia National Laboratories has finished testing a full-scale mock unit representing the aerodynamic characteristics of the B61-12 gravity bomb in a wind tunnel. The tests on the mock-up were done to establish the configuration that will deliver the necessary spin motion of the bomb during freefall and are an important milestone in the Life Extension Program to deliver a new version of the aging system.

Posted in: Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Test & Measurement, Aerospace, Defense, News


Testing Composite Structures for Stronger Bridges

The J. Lohr Structures Laboratory at South Dakota State University helps companies develop new materials and products — self-consolidating concrete columns and pre-stress concrete bridge girders — that bridge a physical gap. Over the past decade, researchers have conducted structural testing on large- and full-scale test specimens for private companies and government entities.

Posted in: Materials, Composites, Test & Measurement, Transportation, News


With New Sensors, NASA's Morpheus Preps to Land on its Own

A test flight will challenge a set of sensors to map out a 65-yard square of boulder-sized hazards and pick out a safe place to land. Mounted to an uncrewed prototype lander called Morpheus that flies autonomously several hundred feet above the ground, the sensor system will have 10 seconds to do its work. The sensor system is a 400-pound set of computers and three instruments called ALHAT (Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology).

Posted in: Sensors, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, News