UpFront

NASA Tests Devices to Increase Truck Fuel Efficiency

Saving the nation $10 billion annually in diesel fuel costs may be possible in a few years, thanks to new devices developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and now being tested at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.

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Metallic Foam Reduces Airplane Noise

For people who live around airports, noise created by planes can cause a disturbance. Researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH have been working with metallic foam that is installed around an engine to reduce noise. The firm foam, crafted from stainless steel, looks like a tightly compacted honeycomb made of silver metal, and feels uniform on the surface — gently abrasive, like a fine-grained pumice stone. “This is an open cell foam, which is mostly air. The foam is formed by ligaments — like a sponge that you use in your kitchen, except the ligaments are metal,” according to Glenn engineer, Cheryl Bowman.

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NASA Drops Chopper to Test New Technology

How do you make a helicopter safer to fly? You crash one. NASA aeronautics researchers at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, recently dropped a small helicopter from a height of 35 feet to see whether an expandable honeycomb cushion called a deployable energy absorber could lessen the destructive force of a crash. On impact, the helicopter’s skid landing gear bent outward, but the cushion attached to its belly kept the rotorcraft’s bottom from touching the ground. Researchers must analyze the test results before they can say for sure whether the deployable energy absorber worked as designed.

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NASA Reproduces a Building Block of Life in Laboratory

NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, a key component of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces this essential ingredient of life. Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the basic structure for uracil, part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic acid (RNA).

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NASA Portable Hyperbaric Chamber Technology Finds Home on Earth

NASA has signed a patent license agreement with OxyHeal Medical Systems of National City, CA to improve the medical community’s access to hyperbaric chambers used to treat many medical conditions and emergencies. OxyHeal will develop new products based on technologies NASA originally developed for space. Hyperbaric chambers create an environment in which the atmospheric pressure of oxygen is increased above normal levels. The high concentrations of oxygen can reduce the size of gas bubbles in the blood and improve blood flow to oxygen-starved tissues.

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New NASA Process Builds Parts One Layer at a Time

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, have developed an environmentally friendly manufacturing process called Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3). “You start with a drawing of the part you want to build, you push a button, and out comes the part,” said Karen Taminger, technology lead for the project. EBF3 works in a vacuum chamber, where an electron beam is focused on a constantly feeding source of metal, which is melted and then applied as called for by a drawing — one layer at a time — on top of a rotating surface until the part is complete.

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NASA Launches New Technology

A successful NASA flight test this summer showed that a spacecraft returning to Earth can use an inflatable heat shield to slow and protect itself as it enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. This was the first time anyone has successfully flown an inflatable reentry capsule, according to engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

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