Manufacturing & Prototyping

Purifying Hydrogen for a Life Support Process

An advanced hydrogen purification technology is proposed to purify hydrogen of acetylene, carbon monoxide, and other gases to enable utilization of the hydrogen for oxygen recovery. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama NASA’s endeavor to further enable long-duration manned space exploration requires further closure of the oxygen loop of the life support system that is currently realized aboard the International Space Station. Currently, oxygen is recovered from crew-generated carbon dioxide via the use of a Sabatier carbon dioxide reduction system coupled with water electrolysis. Water is electrolyzed to form oxygen for crew consumption, as well as hydrogen. The hydrogen is reacted with carbon dioxide, forming water and waste methane gas. Since hydrogen is lost from the desired closed-loop system in the form of methane, there is insufficient hydrogen available to fully react all of the carbon dioxide, resulting in a net loss of oxygen from the loop. In order to further close the oxygen loop, NASA has been developing an advanced plasma pyrolysis technology that further reduces the waste methane to higher hydrocarbons in order to better utilize the hydrogen for oxygen recovery.

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Low-Pressure Casting of Bulk Metallic Glasses for Gears and Other Applications

Applications include the automotive, aeronautics, aerospace, robotics, commercial, and military/defense industries. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California With the correct selection of composition, some bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) have been demonstrated that have excellent combinations of hardness, fracture toughness, and wear resistance so that their use in gears and gearboxes is a potentially commercially viable application. For BMGs to be used as a low-cost alternative to steel gears, rapid fabrication strategies are needed to cast the BMGs into net-shaped gears that require little or no post-casting machining prior to use. Die casting, suction casting, and other cold-mold casting techniques have been widely demonstrated for BMGs in the past, but the unique nature of gears precludes traditional techniques from being used in an optimal way.

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Aluminum Rocket Engine Injector Fabricated Using 3D Additive Manufacturing

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Liquid rocket engine injectors can be extremely expensive to manufacture and hard to iterate to achieve high performance. Internal sealing points can also be the source of reliability issues. The technology disclosed here covers the application of a 3D additive manufacturing (AM) process to produce a functional aluminum injector for liquid propellant rocket engines, along with injector and overall engine design features that optimize the application of such processes to improve performance, reliability, and affordability relative to components produced using standard machining processes and designs. Aluminum was used for the injector instead of higher- temperature metals like stainless steel because its thermal conductance properties provide more opportunity to leverage the cooling potential of liquid oxygen and other cryogenic propellants.

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Making Flexible Ablators that are Flexible Char Formers

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California An approach was developed for making low-density, flexible ablators for a thermal protection system (TPS) from a flexible fibrous carbon substrate and a polymer resin. The material is foldable and stowable, and can be deployed in space without compromising performance. In addition, the material can be stowed in space for very long periods of time (years) without compromising deployability or performance. These flexible ablators offer an alternative to rigid TPS materials, thereby reducing design complexity and cost. On charring, the flexible ablative TPS retains its flexibility. After charring, the TPS has comparable flexibility and mechanical properties to the virgin material.

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Method for Providing Semiconductors Having Self-Aligned Ion Implant

Refined self-aligned ion implantation for improved SiC high-temperature transistors. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio This is a modification to technology for realizing durable and stable electrical functionality of high-temperature transistors. This modification is believed crucial to experimental implementation of SiC junction field effect transistors that electrically operated continuously at 500 °C for over 10,000 hours in an air ambient with less than 10% change in operational transistor parameters.

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Femtosecond Laser Processing of Metal and Plastics

Precision machining can be achieved with no thermal affects and minimal post-processing. Amada Miyachi America, Monrovia, California and Jenoptik, Jena, Germany While precise and fast, the down side to cutting with microsecond (ms) fiber lasers has been that the parts require a number of post-processing operations after they are cut, which add significantly to part cost, and can also damage mechanically delicate parts.

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Increased Alignment in Carbon Nanotube Growth

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California The combination of electronic and mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) has led to wide-ranging investigation of their potential in future electronics and computing, sensors, electrodes, and composites. A method and system for fabricating an array of two or more CNT structures on a coated substrate surface was developed.

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