Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Improved Lifetime for Stirling Cryogenic Coolers

Core-technology advances extend maintenance-free operating life of coolers to more than 50,000 hours. A Stirling cooler is a mechanical system that approximates the ideal gas cycle. Often associated with airborne or portable cooling applications that require compact design and low input power, Stirling coolers are suitable for such applications because of their high efficiency. Compared to Gifford-McMahon and Joule-Thomson cycles, Stirling offers more than twice the cooling performance in the capacity range from 1-100 W. The coolers have a variety of military and commercial applications in infrared receivers and thermal imaging equipment.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>

Improved Piezoelectrically Actuated Microvalve

The improvements are intended to ensure less leakage and true normally-closed operation. Figure 1. The Previous Version of the Valve, like the present version, was opened by applying a voltage that caused the piezoelectric actuator to contract slightly.Efforts are underway to implement an improved design of the device described in “Normally Closed, Piezoelectrically Actuated Microvalve” (NPO-20782), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 1 (January 2001), page 39. To recapitulate: This valve is being developed as a prototype of valves in microfluidic systems and other microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The version of the valve reported in the cited previous article (see Figure 1) included a base (which contained a seat, an inlet, and an outlet), a diaphragm, and an actuator. With the exception of the actuator, the parts were micromachined from silicon. The actuator consisted of a stack of piezoelectric disks in a rigid housing. To make the diaphragm apply a large sealing force on the inlet and outlet, the piezoelectric stack was compressed into a slightly contracted condition during assembly of the valve. Application of a voltage across the stack caused the stack to contract into an even more compressed condition, lifting the diaphragm away from the seat, thereby creating a narrow channel between the inlet and outlet.

Posted in: Mechanics, Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Instrumented Bolt Measures Bending Moments Within Itself

The direction as well as the magnitude of bending can be determined. The Ultrabend bolt is a specially designed bolt instrumented with strain gauges (see figure) that are connected into twin Wheatstone-bridge circuits. The geometric arrangement of the strain gauges is such that by suitable electrical switching of the Wheatstone-bridge circuits, these circuits can be made to either (1) suppress responses to bending and torsional stresses while putting out signals indicative of axial preload or (2) suppress responses to axial and torsional stresses while putting out signals indicative of the magnitude and direction of the bending moment in the bolt. Switching between these two measurement modes is accomplished by use of field-effect transistors controlled by a logic circuit.

Posted in: Mechanics, Briefs

Read More >>

Launching Payloads Into Orbit at Relatively Low Cost

A report proposes the development of a system for launching payloads into orbit at about one-fifth the cost per unit payload weight of current systems. The system would be based on the formerly secret PILOT microsatellite- launching system developed in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik-1. The PILOT system was a solid-fuel, aerodynamically spun and spin-stabilized, five-stage rocket with onboard controls including little more than an optoelectronic horizon sensor and a timer for triggering the second and fifth stages, respectively. The proposal calls for four improvements over the PILOT system to enable control of orbital parameters:

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Improved Quick-Release Pin Mechanism

An improved quick-release pin mechanism supplants a prior such mechanism in which the pin bears a shear load to hold two objects together. The prior mechanism, of a ball-locking design, can fail when vibrations cause balls to fall out. The load-bearing pin is an outer tube with a handle at one end (hereafter denoted the near end). Within the outer tube is a spring- loaded inner tube that includes a handle at its near end and a pivoting tab at its far end. The pin is inserted through holes in the objects to be retained and the inner tube is pushed against an offset pivot inside the outer tube to make the tab rotate outward so that it protrudes past the outer diameter of the outer tube, and the spring load maintains this configuration so that the pin cannot be withdrawn through the holes. Pushing the handles together against the spring load moves the locking tab out far enough that the tab becomes free to rotate inward. Then releasing the inner-tube handle causes the tab to be pulled into a resting position inside the outer tube. The pin can then be pulled out through the holes.

Posted in: Briefs

Read More >>

Diaphragm Pump With Resonant Piezoelectric Drive

Resonance is used to amplify the stroke and thus the flow rate. A diaphragm pump driven by a piezoelectric actuator is undergoing development. This pump is intended to be a prototype of lightweight, highly reliable pumps for circulating cooling liquids in protective garments and high-power electronic circuits, and perhaps for some medical applications. The pump would be highly reliable because it would contain no sliding seals or bearings that could wear, the only parts subject to wear would be two check valves, and the diaphragm and other flexing parts could be designed, by use of proven methods, for extremely long life. Because the pump would be capable of a large volumetric flow rate and would have only a small dead volume, its operation would not be disrupted by ingestion of gas, and it could be started reliably under all conditions.

Posted in: Mechanics, Briefs

Read More >>

Capacitors Would Help Protect Against Hypervelocity Impacts

A proposal investigates alternatives to the present “bumper” method of protecting spacecraft against impacts of meteoroids and orbital debris. The proposed method is based on a British highvoltage- capacitance technique for protecting armored vehicles against shapedcharge warheads.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>