Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Miniature Blimps for Surveillance and Collection of Samples

These robots could follow complex three-dimensional trajectories through buildings. Miniature blimps are under development as robots for use in exploring the thick, cold, nitrogen atmosphere of Saturn's moon, Titan. Similar blimps can also be used for surveillance and collection of biochemical samples in buildings, caves, subways, and other, similar structures on Earth. The widely perceived need for means to thwart attacks on buildings and to mitigate the effects of such attacks has prompted consideration of the use of robots. Relative to "rover"-type (wheeled) robots that have been considered for such uses, miniature blimps offer the advantage of ability to move through the air in any direction and, hence, to perform tasks that are difficult or impossible for wheeled robots, including climbing stairs and looking through windows. In addition, miniature blimps are expected to have greater range and to cost less, relative to wheeled robots.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Hybrid Automotive Engine Using Ethanol-Burning Miller Cycle

This engine would operate with high fuel efficiency and generate little pollution. A proposed hybrid (internal-combustion/ electric) automotive engine system would include as its internal-combustion subsystem, a modified Miller-cycle engine with regenerative air preheating and with autoignition like that of a Diesel engine. The fuel would be ethanol and would be burned lean to ensure complete combustion. Although the proposed engine would have a relatively low power-to-weight ratio compared to most present engines, this would not be the problem encountered if this engine were used in a non-hybrid system since hybrid systems require significantly lower power and thus smaller engines than purely internal-combustion-engine-driven vehicles. The disadvantage would be offset by the advantages of high fuel efficiency, low emission of nitrogen oxides and particulate pollutants, and the fact that ethanol is a renewable fuel.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Modular Rake of Pitot Probes

Individual probes can be replaced more easily than was possible before. The figure presents selected views of a modular rake of 17 pitot probes for measuring both transient and steady-state pressures in a supersonic wind tunnel. In addition to pitot tubes visible in the figure, the probe modules contain (1) high-frequency dynamic-pressure transducers connected through wires to remote monitoring circuitry and (2) flow passages that lead to tubes that, in turn, lead to remote steady-state pressure transducers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Innovative, High-Pressure, Cryogenic Control Valve: Short Face-to-Face, Reduced Cost

This design includes several improvements over prior designs. A control valve that can throttle high-pressure cryogenic fluid embodies several design features that distinguish it over conventional valves designed for similar applications. Field and design engineers worked together to create a valve that would simplify installation, trim changes, and maintenance, thus reducing overall cost. The seals and plug stem packing were designed to perform optimally in cryogenic temperature ranges. Unlike conventional high-pressure cryogenic valves, the trim size can be changed independent of the body.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Flight-Test Evaluation of Flutter-Prediction Methods

Experiments have demonstrated the accuracy of predictions of instability. The flight-test community routinely spends considerable time and money to determine a range of flight conditions, called a flight envelope, within which an aircraft is safe to fly. The cost of determining a flight envelope could be greatly reduced if there were a method of safely and accurately predicting the speed associated with the onset of an instability called flutter.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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Aerostructures Test Wing

Test data can be used to refine predictions of the onset of flutter. The Aerostructures Test Wing (ATW) was an apparatus used in a flight experiment during a program of research on aeroelastic instabilities. The ATW experiment was performed to study a specific instability known as flutter. Flutter is a destructive phenomenon caused by adverse coupling of structural dynamics and aerodynamics. The process of determining a flight envelope within which an aircraft will not experience flutter, known as flight flutter testing, is very dangerous and expensive because predictions of the instability are often unreliable.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

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Piezoelectrically Actuated Microvalve for Liquid Effluents

Power consumption and size would be reduced. Modifications have been proposed to effect further improvement of the device described in “Improved Piezo- electrically Actuated Microvalve” (NPO-30158), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 26, No. 1 (January 2002), page 29. To recapitulate: What is being developed is a prototype of valves for microfluidic systems and other microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The version of the valve reported in the cited previous article included a base (which contained a seat, an inlet, and an outlet), a diaphragm, and a linear actuator. With the exception of the actuator, the parts were micromachined from silicon. The linear 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. The positions of the inlet and outlet, relative to the diaphragm and seat, were such that the inlet flow and pressure contributed to sealing and thus to a desired normallyclosed mode of operation.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components

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