Manufacturing & Prototyping

Fast-Response-Time Shape-Memory-Effect Foam Actuators

Bulk shape memory alloys, such as Nitinol or CuAlZn, display strong recovery forces undergoing a phase transformation after being strained in their martensitic state. These recovery forces are used for actuation. As the phase transformation is thermally driven, the response time of the actuation can be slow, as the heat must be passively inserted or removed from the alloy.

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Non-Pyrotechnic Zero-Leak Normally Closed Valve

This valve is designed to create a zero-leak seal in a liquid propulsion system that is a functional replacement for the normally closed pyrovalve. Unlike pyrovalves, Nitinol is actuated by simply heating the material to a certain temperature, called the transition temperature. Like a pyrovalve, before actuation, the upstream and downstream sections are separated from one another and from the external environment by closed welded seals. Also like pyrovalves, after actuation, the propellant or pressurant gas can flow without a significant pressure drop but are still separated from the external environment by a closed welded seal.

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Quick-Change Ceramic Flame Holder for High-Output Torches

In addition to jet engine simulation, this technology can be used in torches for forging and pottery kilns.Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center have developed a new ceramic design flame holder with a service temperature of 4,000 °F (2,204 °C). The combination of high strength and high temperature capability, as well as a twist-lock mounting method to the steel burner, sets this flame holder apart from existing technology.

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Processing Nanostructured Sensors Using Microfabrication Techniques

Nanostructured sensors have uses in safety, environmental monitoring, fire detection, and security.Standard microfabrication techniques can be implemented and scaled to help assemble nanoscale microsensors. Currently nanostructures are often deposited onto materials primarily by adding them to a solution, then applying the solution in a thin film. This results in random placement of the nanostructures with no controlled order, and no way to accurately reproduce the placement. This method changes the means by which microsensors with nanostructures are fabricated. The fundamental advantage to this approach is that it enables standard microfabrication techniques to be applied in the repeated manufacture of nanostructured sensors on a microplatform.

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Modular Habitats Comprising Rigid and Inflatable Modules

Potential applications include hurricane-relief housing.Modular, lightweight, fully equipped buildings comprising hybrids of rigid and inflatable structures can be assembled on Earth and then transported to and deployed on the Moon for use as habitats. Modified versions of these buildings could also prove useful on Earth as shelters that can be rapidly and easily erected in emergency situations and/or extreme environments: examples include shelters for hurricane relief and for Antarctic exploration.

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More About N2O-Based Propulsion and Breathable-Gas Systems

A concept was evaluated of using nitrous oxide as (1) a monopropellant in thrusters for space suits and spacecraft and (2) a source of breathable gas inside space suits and spacecraft, both by exploiting the controlled decomposition of N2O into N2 and O2. Relative to one prior monopropellant hydrazine, N2O is much less toxic, yet offers comparable performance. N2O can be stored safely as a liquid at room temperature and unlike another prior monopropellant hydrogen peroxide does not decompose spontaneously. A prototype N2O-based thruster has been demonstrated. It has also been proposed to harness N2O-based thrusters for generating electric power and to use the N2 + O2 decomposition product as a breathable gas. Because of the high performance, safety, and ease of handling of N2O, it can be expected to be economically attractive to equip future spacecraft and space suits with N2O-based thrusters and breathable-gas systems.

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Practical Loop-Shaping Design of Feedback Control Systems

Actuator rates are incorporated into a design from the start.An improved methodology for designing feedback control systems has been developed based on systematically shaping the loop gain of the system to meet performance requirements such as stability margins, disturbance attenuation, and transient response, while taking into account the actuation system limitations such as actuation rates and range. Loop-shaping for controls design is not new, but past techniques do not directly address how to systematically design the controller to maximize its performance. As a result, classical feedback control systems are designed predominantly using ad hoc control design approaches such as proportional integral derivative (PID), normally satisfied when a workable solution is achieved, without a good understanding of how to maximize the effectiveness of the control design in terms of competing performance requirements, in relation to the limitations of the plant design.

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