Breakthrough Energy Innovation: Ambition and Urgency

Climate change goals, customer sustainability expectations and pressure to reduce waste demand ambition and urgency from industry to deliver breakthrough energy innovation. Engineering simulation is a key enabler to achieve these breakthroughs. From startups to multinationals, businesses are using engineering simulation to explore the much broader design spaces in the areas of advanced electrification, machine and fuel efficiency, aerodynamic design, effective lightweighting and thermal optimization.

Posted in: White Papers, Electronics & Computers, Energy, Simulation Software

Scientists Simulate Bacteria-Powered 'Windfarm'

A team of scientists from Oxford University has shown how the natural movement of bacteria could be harnessed to assemble and power microscopic "windfarms."

Posted in: News, Energy Harvesting, Renewable Energy

Method and Circuit for In-Situ Health Monitoring of Solar Cells in Space

Potential applications include use in diagnostics for terrestrial solar power generation systems.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed a method and apparatus for in-situ health monitoring of solar cells. The innovation is a novel approach to solar cell monitoring, as it is radiation- hard, consumes few system resources, and uses commercially available components. The system operates at temperatures from –55 to 225 °C, allowing it to reside close to the array in direct sunlight. The circuitry measures solar cell current versus voltage (I-V) curves using relatively inexpensive electronics, a single switchable +28 V power bus, and two analog-to-digital (A/D) converter channels. A single transistor is used as a variable resistive load across the cell, rather than the large resistor arrays or active current sources normally used to characterize cells. Originally developed for space, the technology can be adapted for use in terrestrial solar power generation systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Solar Power, Integrated circuits, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Transistors, Solar energy

Foldable and Deployable Power Collection System

The lightweight solar power array can be used in electric vehicles, portable and field-deployable power systems, and power for emergency response operations.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is developing a lightweight space-based solar power array with a high power-to-stowed-volume and weight ratio. The system provides power to small satellites and CubeSats that are power starved, operating on extremely limited power because of the size restrictions for housing onboard power sources. The beauty of NASA’s new solar unit is in its simplicity and packaged power density. Small satellites cannot take advantage of deployable high-efficiency solar cell arrays due to their complexity and mechanical needs; the weight and volume requirements exceed what is available in small satellites and CubeSats. The new system, for example, is compact enough to provide a 3U CubeSat with ~200 Watts, or a 6U with 500 Watts of power. NASA is developing the technology and is looking for partners to license and commercialize it.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Solar Power, Physical Sciences, Solar energy, Product development, Satellites

Solid-State Ultracapacitor

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a solid-state ultracapacitor utilizing a novel nanocomposite dielectric material. The material’s design is based on the internal barrier layer capacitance (IBLC) concept, and it uses novel dielectric and metallic conductive ink formulations.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Physical Sciences, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Composite materials, Nanomaterials

Double-acting Extremely Light Thermo-Acoustic (DELTA) Converter

This technology enables a new class of lightweight power systems for small aircraft, camping, or micro-cogeneration that is small, quiet, efficient, and essentially maintenance-free.

Power generation from an external or internal heat source using thermal energy conversion technologies such as solid-state thermionics and thermoelectrics or dynamic conversion with Otto, Stirling, Brayton, or Rankine technologies is fundamentally limited in maximum specific power due to either low efficiency and/or operating frequency. These solid-state technologies are low voltage and hence produce a high DC current that restricts their minimum geometry to approximately 4 A/mm2 to avoid overheating. High-power implementations of this technology class are inefficient, large, and heavy.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Heat exchangers, Thermal management, Product development, Electro-thermal engines, Lightweighting

Chassis Short Mitigation and Characterization Technique for the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator

The radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) is a flight-proven, capable source of power that reliably converts heat into electricity. NASA and the Department of Energy (DoE) have developed a new generation of such power systems that could be used for a variety of space missions. The newest RTG, called a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), has been designed to operate on Mars and in the vacuum of space. However, shorts between the internal electrical power circuit and chassis frame of the MMRTG have been observed in the engineering unit, qualification unit, and flight unit. The internal shorts seemed to appear and sometimes clear spontaneously. A root cause has not been determined for these internal shorts, and their resistance, power rating, and energy rating are largely unknown. A mitigation and measurement technique is needed.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Failure analysis, Electro-thermal engines, Performance tests, Spacecraft

New Material Increases Lifetime of Solar-Powered Electrons

Nobody wants a laptop computer that stops working when a cloud passes by. Storing sunlight as fuel that can be later used to drive fuel cells requires new materials. Scientists demonstrated just such a material by combining two oxides on the atomic scale.

Posted in: Articles, News, Energy, Energy Storage, Materials

Scenario Power Load Analysis Tool (SPLAT) MagicDraw Plug-in

The SPLAT tool could be applied to any project that needs to track time-dependent power consumption; it computes power usage profiles based on modeled component information and scenarios.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Power consumption during all phases of spacecraft flight is of great interest to the aerospace community. As a result, significant analysis effort is exerted by both system and electrical-domain engineers to understand the rates of electrical energy generation and consumption under many operational scenarios of the system. Previously, no standard tool existed for creating and maintaining a Power Equipment List (PEL) of spacecraft components that consume power, and no standard tool existed for generating power load profiles based on this PEL information during mission design phases. Projects have traditionally either developed ad-hoc spreadsheet-based tools, or adapted complex simulation tools to compute such resource predictions; both of these approaches have significant limitations.

Posted in: Briefs, Power Management, Energy, Energy Storage, Computer software and hardware, Energy consumption, Aircraft operations, Spacecraft

Wideband, GaN MMIC, Distributed Amplifier-Based Microwave Power Module

The solid-state module operates as a radar, communication, or navigation system.

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Historically, the term microwave power module (MPM) has been associated with a small, fully integrated, self-contained radio frequency (RF) amplifier that combines both solid-state and microwave vacuum electronics technologies. Typically, the output power of these MPMs is on the order of about 100 Watts CW over an octave bandwidth. The MPMs require both a solid-state amplifier at the front end and a microwave vacuum electronics amplifier at the back end. However, such MPMs cannot be utilized for communications because the MPMs are not optimized for linearity or efficiency. Also, the MPMs can be very expensive to manufacture, particularly when modules are produced in very small quantities for space applications. Also, a kilovolt (kV) class power supply is required to power the traveling-wave tube amplifier, which is a part of the microwave vacuum electronics.

Posted in: Briefs, Power Management, Energy, Energy Storage, Amplifiers, Architecture, Product development, Radiation

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