Manufacturing & Prototyping

Electrostatic Separator for Beneficiation of Lunar Soil

Process complexity may be significantly reduced.A charge separator has been constructed for use in a lunar environment that will allow for separation of minerals from lunar soil. Any future lunar base and habitat must be constructed from strong, dense materials to provide for thermal and radiation protection. It has been proposed that lunar soil may meet this need, and sintering of full-scale bricks has been accomplished using lunar simulant. In the present experiments, whole lunar dust as received was used. The approach taken here was that beneficiation of ores into an industrial feedstock grade may be more efficient. Refinement or enrichment of specific minerals in the soil before it is chemically processed may be more desirable as it would reduce the size and energy requirements necessary to produce the virgin material, and it may significantly reduce the process complexity. The principle is that minerals of different composition and work function will charge differently when tribocharged against different materials, and hence be separated in an electric field. The charge separator is constructed of two parallel copper plates separated by a variable distance in a vacuumcompatible box. The top and bottom of the box are designed so that the separation and angle between the plates can be varied. The box has a removable front plate for access, and each plate is connected to a high-voltage, vacuumcompatible connector that connects to feedthroughs in a vacuum chamber. Each plate is respectively powered by positive and negative high-voltage regulated DC power modules. Tribocharged dust is fed into the top through a small hole, where it is subjected to an intense electric field generated between the plates. Positively charged particles will be attracted to the negative plate, while negatively charged particles will be attracted to the positive plate. Dust collected on each plate and on filter paper in the collection box at the bottom of the plates can then be weighed to determine the mass-fraction separation. Because this device is meant for use in a lunar environment, much higher voltages can be used where there is no gas breakdown. Special care was taken in the design of the high-voltage connections to the separator plates. Pure copper plates and other materials were chosen for their low outgassing properties. Modeling of particle trajectories within the plates showed that for the Q/M (charge to mass ratio) measurements of the charged particles in vacuum, a smaller, more compact separator can be used on the Moon compared to the same device on Earth. Another advantage of this design is that, in the lower gravity environment of the Moon, particles will spend more time falling between the plates. Again, a smaller device and higher voltages can use this advantage to increase the efficiency of the lunar soil beneficiation process. This work was done by Jacqueline Quinn, and Ellen Arens of NASA Kennedy Space Center, Steve Trigwell of ASRC Aerospace, and James Captain of the University of Central Florida. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Manufacturing & Prototyping category. KSC-13007

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Bonded Invar Clip Removal Using Foil Heaters

A new process uses local heating and temperature monitoring to soften the adhesive under Invar clips enough that they can be removed without damaging the composite underneath or other nearby bonds. Two 1×1 in. (≈2.5×2.5 cm), 10-W/in.2 (≈1.6-W/cm2), 80-ohm resistive foil Kapton foil heaters, with pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive backing, are wired in parallel to a 50-V, 1-A limited power supply. At 1 A, 40 W are applied to the heater pair. The temperature is monitored in the clip radius and inside the tube, using a dual thermocouple readout. Several layers of aluminum foil are used to speed the heat up, allowing clips to be removed in less than five minutes. The very local heating via the foil heaters allows good access for clip removal and protects all underlying and adjacent materials.

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Gratings Fabricated on Flat Surfaces and Reproduced on Non-Flat Substrates

A method has been developed for fabricating gratings on flat substrates, and then reproducing the groove pattern on a curved (concave or convex) substrate and a corresponding grating device. First, surface relief diffraction grating grooves are formed on flat substrates. For example, they may be fabricated using photolithography and reactive ion etching, maskless lithography, holography, or mechanical ruling. Then, an imprint of the grating is made on a deformable substrate, such as plastic, polymer, or other materials using thermoforming, hot or cold embossing, or other methods. Interim stamps using electroforming, or other methods, may be produced for the imprinting process or if the same polarity of the grating image is required. The imprinted, deformable substrate is then attached to a curved, rigid substrate using epoxy or other suitable adhesives. The imprinted surface is facing away from the curved rigid substrate.

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Fabricating Radial Groove Gratings Using Projection Photolithography

Projection photolithography has been used as a fabrication method for radial grove gratings. Use of photolithographic method for diffraction grating fabrication represents the most significant breakthrough in grating technology in the last 60 years, since the introduction of holographic written gratings. Unlike traditional methods utilized for grating fabrication, this method has the advantage of producing complex diffractive groove contours that can be designed at pixel-by-pixel level, with pixel size currently at the level of 45×45 nm. Typical placement accuracy of the grating pixels is 10 nm over 30 nm. It is far superior to holographic, mechanically ruled or direct e-beam written gratings and results in high spatial coherence and low spectral cross-talk. Due to the smooth surface produced by reactive ion etch, such gratings have a low level of randomly scattered light. Also, due to high fidelity and good surface roughness, this method is ideally suited for fabrication of radial groove gratings.

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Miniature Scroll Pumps Fabricated by LIGA

These would serve as roughing pumps for vacuum systems of miniature instruments. Miniature scroll pumps have been proposed as roughing pumps (low-vacuum pumps) for miniature scientific instruments (e.g., portable mass spectrometers and gas analyzers) that depend on vacuum. The larger scroll pumps used as roughing pumps in some older vacuum systems are fabricated by conventional machining. Typically, such an older scroll pump includes (1) an electric motor with an eccentric shaft to generate orbital motion of a scroll and (2) conventional bearings to restrict the orbital motion to a circle.

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Self-Assembling, Flexible, Pre-Ceramic Composite Preforms

Pliable, unfired preforms deploy in-situ to save fuel and weight costs. In this innovation, light weight, high temperature, compact aerospace structures with increased design options are made possible by using self-assembling, flexible, pre-ceramic composite materials. These materials are comprised of either ceramic or carbon fiber performs, which are infiltrated with polymer precursors that convert to ceramics upon thermal exposure. The preform architecture can vary from chopped fibers formed into blankets or felt, to continuous fibers formed into a variety of 2D or 3D weaves or braids. The matrix material can also vary considerably. For demonstration purposes, a 2D carbon weave was infiltrated with a SiC polymer precursor. The green or unfired material is fabricated into its final shape while it is still pliable. It is then folded or rolled into a much more compact shape, which will occupy a smaller space. With this approach, the part remains as one continuous piece, rather than being fabricated as multiple sections, which would require numerous seals for eventual component use. The infiltrated preform can then be deployed in-situ. The component can be assembled into its final shape by taking advantage of the elasticity of the material, which permits the structure to unfold and spring into its final form under its own stored energy. The pre-ceramic composites are converted to ceramics and rigidized immediately after deployment.

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Discrete Fourier Transform Analysis in a Complex Vector Space

Alternative computational strategies for the Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) have been developed using analysis of geometric manifolds. This approach provides a general framework for performing DFT calculations, and suggests a more efficient implementation of the DFT for applications using iterative transform methods, particularly phase retrieval. The DFT can thus be implemented using fewer operations when compared to the usual DFT counterpart. The software decreases the run time of the DFT in certain applications such as phase retrieval that iteratively call the DFT function. The algorithm exploits a special computational approach based on analysis of the DFT as a transformation in a complex vector space. As such, this approach has the potential to realize a DFT computation that approaches N operations versus Nlog(N) operations for the equivalent Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) calculation.

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