Manufacturing & Prototyping

Rapid and Quiet Drill

This is an all-ultrasonic variant of previously reported ultrasonic/sonic drills. The figure depicts selected aspects of the rapid and quiet drill (RAQD), which is a prototype apparatus for drilling concrete or bricks. The design and basic principle of operation of the RAQD overlap, in several respects, with those of ultrasonic/sonic drilling and coring apparatuses described in a number of previous NASA Tech Briefs articles. The main difference is that whereas the actuation scheme of the prior apparatuses is partly ultrasonic and partly sonic, the actuation scheme of the RAQD is purely ultrasonic. Hence, even though the RAQD generates considerable sound, it is characterized as quiet because most or all of the sound is above the frequency range of human hearing.

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Thermally Conductive Metal-Tube/Carbon-Composite Joints

Modified solder joints accommodate differential thermal expansion. An improved method of fabricating joints between metal and carbon-fiber-based composite materials in lightweight radiators and heat sinks has been devised. Carbon-fiber-based composite materials have been used in such heat-transfer devices because they offer a combination of high thermal conductivity and low mass density. Metal tubes are typically used to carry heat-transfer fluids to and from such heat-transfer devices. The present fabrication method helps to ensure that the joints between the metal tubes and the composite-material parts in such heat-transfer devices have both (1) the relatively high thermal conductances needed for efficient transfer of heat and (2) the flexibility needed to accommodate differences among thermal expansions of dissimilar materials in operation over wide temperature ranges.

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Electrical Monitoring of Thicknesses of Semiconductor Wafers

Electrical fuses would be implanted at depths corresponding to desired thicknesses. A technique based on electrical-continuity measurements has been proposed as a means of monitoring and controlling the thicknesses of semiconductor wafers during lapping, polishing, and etching. The technique is expected to contribute to the development of microelectromechanical systems by making it possible to lap and polish wafers with precision greater than has been achieved previously, thereby further making it possible to fabricate wafers of unprecedented thinness (thicknesses of 5 µm or possibly even less). Unlike some prior techniques for measuring the thicknesses of semiconductor wafers, this technique does not entail the timeconsuming intermittent stopping of processing to take measurements. Also, in comparison with most prior techniques, this technique offers the potential for greater precision at lower cost.

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Two Techniques for Removing Core-Drill Debris

Both techniques contribute savings in time and money. Two alternative techniques make it possible to remove core-drill debris more rapidly and efficiently than was previously possible. Either technique is a vast improvement over the prior art. For industries in which ultrasonic core drills are used, these two techniques are expected to result in savings of time and money.

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Mechanical Alloying for Making Thermoelectric Compounds

Constituents are ball-milled into a powder, which is then hot pressed. An economical room-temperature mechanical alloying process has been shown to be an effective means of making a homogeneous powder that can be hot-pressed to synthesize a thermoelectric material having reproducible chemical composition. The thermoelectric materials to which the technique has thus far been applied with success include rare-earth chalcogenides [La3–xTe4 (0 < x < 0.33) and La3–xYbyTe4 (0 < x < 1, 0 < y < 1)] and Zintl compounds (including Yb14MnSb11 and Yb14BiSb11). The synthesis of a given material consists of the room-temperature thermomechanical- alloying process followed by a hot-pressing process. Relative to synthesis of nominally the same material by a traditional process that includes hot melting, this synthesis is simpler and yields a material having superior thermoelectric properties.

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Fluorine-Based DRIE of Fused Silica

A suitable choice of process parameters enables etching of vertical side walls. A process of deep reactive-ion etching (DRIE) using a fluorine-based gas mixture enhanced by induction-coupled plasma (ICP) has been demonstrated to be effective in forming high-aspect-ratio three-dimensional patterns in fused silica. The patterns are defined in part by an etch mask in the form of a thick, highquality aluminum film. The process was developed to satisfy a need to fabricate high-aspect-ratio fused-silica resonators for vibratory microgyroscopes, and could be used to satisfy similar requirements for fabricating other fused-silica components.

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Process for High-Rate Fabrication of Alumina Nanotemplates

Approximately regular hexagonal arrays of holes are formed in an anodizing process. An anodizing process, at an early stage of development at the time of reporting the information for this article, has shown promise as a means of fabricating alumina nanotemplates integrated with silicon wafers. Alumina nanotemplates are basically layers of alumina, typically several microns thick, in which are formed approximately regular hexagonal arrays of holes having typical diameters of the order of 10 to 100 nm. Interest in alumina nanotemplates has grown in recent years because they have been found to be useful as templates in the fabrication of nanoscale magnetic, electronic, optoelectronic, and other devices. The present anodizing process is attractive for the fabrication of alumina nanotemplates integrated with silicon wafers in two respects: (1) the process involves self-ordering of the holes; that is, the holes as formed by the process are spontaneously arranged in approximately regular hexagonal arrays; and (2) the rates of growth (that is, elongation) of the holes are high enough to make the process compatible with other processes used in the mass production of integrated circuits.

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