Manufacturing & Prototyping

Products of Tomorrow: January 2015

The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Materials, Sensors, Products, Techs for License, Articles

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Variable-Sweep-Wing Aircraft Configuration

There are significant improvements in structural, aerodynamic, and energy efficiency. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California Efficient aircraft designs are increasingly desired in order to support the continued growth of the air transportation industry. Continued expansion of this vital mode of transportation is threatened due to concerns over ever-increasing emissions, noise, and the demand for fuel. Current airport runway, ramp, and terminal facilities are increasingly constrained by encroaching growth and neighborhood environmental issues. The challenges associated with ever-increasing demand for air travel will require the development of aircraft that can fly efficiently over wide speed ranges, minimize their environmental impacts, offer the potential for sizing and growth relative to market demand, and make efficient use of constrained airport and airspace resources.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Mechanical Components, Energy Efficiency, Aviation, Articles, Briefs, Aeronautics

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Process for Coating Substrates With Catalytic Materials

This process can remove volatile organic compounds from indoor air in planes, automobiles, homes, and industrial plants. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia This invention relates to the process of coating substrates with one or more components to form a catalyst; specifically, the process of layering one or more catalytic components onto a honeycomb monolith to form a carbon monoxide oxidation that combines CO and O2 to form CO2, or alternatively, a volatile organic compound oxidation catalyst that combines the compound and O2 to form CO2 and H2O.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs, TSP

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Portable Friction Stir Welding Machine

The machine is capable of butt-welding aluminum 1,100 workpieces 1/8 in. (≈3 mm) thick. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama A preliminary design of a portable friction stir welding (FSW) machine for use in space has been developed. The in-space FSW machine takes the form of a handheld router tool that is historically used in woodworking applications. With the design of the in-space FSW machine, the FSW tool is directly connected to the motor shaft while the motor is mounted to a small frame that supports the tool. The frame has handlebars that allow the operator to grasp the welder and maneuver it along a desired weld path. The key enabler of the in-space FSW machine is an innovative FSW tool design. The FSW tool is a fixed shoulder-to-shoulder bobbin tool that self-aligns and adjusts to the workpiece. The self-aligning and adjusting FSW (SAA-FSW) tool floats freely in the vertical direction, thereby eliminating any external axial load on the machine or operator. The total weight of the in-space FSW machine is 73 lb (≈33 kg), and it only requires one operator. The machine is capable of butt-welding aluminum 1,100 workpieces 1/8 in. (≈3 mm) thick.

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Multimode, Fiber-Coupled, Tungsten Silicide, Superconducting Nanowire Single-Photon Detector Array

Amorphous WSi allows a much greater active area due to lower incidence of nanowire constrictions. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The superconducting nanowire single-photon detector (SNSPD) arrays created in this innovation were fabricated using a WSi nanowire process. A gold mirror layer is deposited on an oxidized silicon wafer, and amorphous-state WSi is sputtered from a compound target at a thickness of 5 nm. The WSi nanowire is embedded at the center of a three-layer vertical optical cavity consisting of two silica layers and a titanium oxide anti-reflective coating. The layer thicknesses were chosen, on the basis of simulations and measured material parameters, to optimize efficiency at the target communication wavelength of 1,550 nm, and to minimize the polarization dependence of the detector response.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs, TSP

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Sidewall Passivation of GaN Avalanche Photodiodes via Atomic Layer Deposition

Atomic layer deposition is explored as a sidewall passivation method for mesa-isolated gallium nitride. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The visible-blind detection of UV light has important applications in planetary imaging and spectroscopy, astronomy, communications, and defense-related imaging. Future instruments for imaging in the ultraviolet will require improvements in detector capabilities. An all-solid-state ultraviolet detector will enable substantial improvements in mass, volume, complexity, power, and robustness compared with conventional image-tube-based technologies. One new class of solid-state UV detectors includes those based on the gallium nitride (GaN) family of materials. The electronic passivation methods described here are one promising way to produce detectors with the required low dark current characteristics, and show a significant improvement over current state-of-the-art passivation methods. These methods will contribute to a next-generation solar-blind, solid-state UV detector for a wide range of space-based UV instruments.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs

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NASA's Hot 100 Technologies: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Variable Power Handheld Laser Torch A handheld laser torch was designed for welding and brazing metals to repair hard-to-reach space shuttle engine nozzles. It incorporates various manual controls and changing lenses to allow the operator to adjust the laser’s power output in real time. Applications are likely to be in-field welding and brazing of damaged equipment where traditional welding systems cannot easily access the welding area.

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