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.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Human factors
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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.

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.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Casting, Glass, Metals, Transmission gears, Transmissions
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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.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Machining processes, Aluminum, Fuel injection, Liquid propellant rocket engines
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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.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Thermal management, Heat resistant materials, Resins
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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.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Semiconductors
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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.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Cutting, Metals, Plastics
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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.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Nanomaterials
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Process to Fabricate Specific Sized Monodisperse Polystyrene Microparticles

Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

A new method was developed to prepare monodisperse nano to microparticles of polystyrene ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 microns in relatively large-quantity batches (2 L, 10% by weight in water). Current commercial sources are very expensive and can typically only be acquired on a relatively small scale. Monodisperse polystyrene in this size range is an important component of laser velocimetry measurements in wind tunnels, but has many other potential uses. Polystyrene microparticles have uses in paints/coatings, adhesives, bio/immunoassays, reaction catalysts, and chromatography materials. The main benefits of this technology are low cost, scalability, and selectable size.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Fabrication, Nanomaterials, Polymers, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Atmospheric Pressure Plasma-Based Fabrication of Printable Electronics and Functional Coatings

Applications include biomedical, consumer electronics, security, and communications industries.

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

The need for low-cost and environmentally friendly processes for fabricating printable electronics and biosensor chips is growing. Nanomaterials have proved to be very useful in both printable electronics due to their electronic properties, and in biosensors for signal transduction, and amplification. Chemical vapor deposition requires high temperatures for the growth of nanostructures, restricting the type and nature of materials that can be used as substrates. Conventional plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition requires high vacuum equipment, and the need for vacuum results in additional costs of vacuum pumps and energy resources.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Electronic equipment, Fabrication, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Nanomaterials
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Passive Destructive Interference Acoustic Liner for a Turbofan Engine Using Additive Manufacturing

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

This technology exploits the capabilities of additive manufacturing to attenuate the fan noise within the inlet or aft duct of a turbofan engine. The approach may be expanded to include auxiliary power units, environmental control systems, or other cooling systems requiring noise attenuation.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Insulation, Exterior noise, Fans, Turboprop engines
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