Physical Sciences

Study of Dislocation-Ordered InxGa1–xAs/GaAs Quantum Dots

A report describes an experimental study of dislocation-induced spatial ordering of quantum dots (QDs) comprising nanometer-sized InxGa1–xAs islands surrounded by GaAs. Metastable hetero-epitaxial structures were grown by molecular-beam epitaxy of InxGa1–xAs onto n+ GaAs and semi-insulating GaAs substrates. Then the structures were relaxed during a post-growth annealing/self-organizing process leading to the formation of surface undulations that acted as preferential sites for the nucleation of QDs. Structural effects of annealing times and temperatures on the strain-relaxed InxGa1–xAs/GaAs and the subsequent spatial ordering of the QDs were analyzed by atomic-force microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Continuous-wave spectral and time-resolved photoluminescence (PL) measurements were performed to study the effects, upon optical properties, of increased QD positional ordering, increased QD uniformity, and proximity of QDs to arrays of dislocations. PL spectral peaks of ordered QD structures formed on strain-relaxed InxGa1–xAs/GaAs layers were found to be narrower than those of structures not so formed and ordered. Rise and decay times of time-resolved PL were found to be lower at lower temperatures — apparently as a consequence of decreased carrier-transport times within the barriers surrounding the QDs.

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Alternative Electrochemical Systems for Ozonation of Water

Hydrogen gas, ozone gas, and ozonated water can be delivered under pressure. Electrochemical systems that are especially well suited for the small-scale generation of ozone and ozonated water for local use have been invented. These systems can operate with very little maintenance, and the only inputs needed during operation are electric power and water. These systems are closely related to the ones described in "Electrochemical Systems Generate Ozone and Ozonated Water" (MSC-23046), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 26, No. 3 (March 2002), page 68. Ozonated water produced by these systems can be used in diverse industrial applications: A few examples include sterilization in the brewing industry, general disinfection, and treatment of sewage and recycled water.

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Magnetic Field Would Reduce Electron Backstreaming in Ion Thrusters

Erosion of accelerator grid could also be reduced. The imposition of a magnetic field has been proposed as a means of reducing the electron backstreaming problem in ion thrusters. Electron backstreaming refers to the backflow of electrons into the ion thruster. Back- streaming electrons are accelerated by the large potential difference that exists between the ion- thruster acceleration electrodes, which otherwise accelerates positive ions out of the engine to develop thrust. The energetic beam formed by the backstreaming electrons can damage the discharge cathode, as well as other discharge surfaces upstream of the acceleration electrodes. The electron-backstreaming condition occurs when the center potential of the ion accelerator grid is no longer sufficiently negative to prevent electron diffusion back into the ion thruster. This typically occurs over extended periods of operation as accelerator-grid apertures enlarge due to erosion. As a result, ion thrusters are required to operate at increasingly negative accelerator-grid voltages in order to prevent electron backstreaming. These larger negative voltages give rise to higher accelerator-grid erosion rates, which in turn accelerates aperture enlargement. Electron backstreaming due to accelerator-grid-hole enlargement has been identified as a failure mechanism that will limit ion-thruster service lifetime.

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MEMS-Based Piezoelectric/Electrostatic Inchworm Actuator

Nanometer steps could be concatenated into overall travel of hundreds of microns. A proposed inchworm actuator, to be designed and fabricated according to the principles of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), would effect linear motion characterized by steps as small as nanometers and an overall range of travel of hundreds of microns. Potential applications for actuators like this one include precise positioning of optical components and active suppression of noise and vibration in scientific instruments, conveyance of wafers in the semiconductor industry, precise positioning for machine tools, and positioning and actuation of microsurgical instruments.

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Predicting and Preventing Incipient Flameout in Combustors

Increases in acoustic signals could trigger rapid adjustments to prevent flameouts. A method of predicting and preventing incipient flameout in a combustor has been proposed. The method should be applicable to a variety of liquid- and gas-fueled combustors in furnaces and turbine engines. Until now, there have been methods of detecting flameouts after they have occurred, but there has been no way of predicting incipient flameouts and, hence, no way of acting in time to prevent them. Prevention of flameout could not only prevent damage to equipment but, in the case of aircraft turbine engines, could also save lives.

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Detecting Conductive Liquid Leaking From Nonconductive Pipe

A capacitive detector is scanned over the ground above the pipe. A method that can be implemented with relatively simple electronic circuitry provides a capability for detecting leakage of an electrically conductive liquid from an electrically nonconductive underground pipe. Alternatively or in addition, the method can be applied to locate the pipe, whether or not there is a leak. Although the method is subject to limitations (some of which are described below), it is still attractive as an additional option for detecting leaks and locating pipes without need for extensive digging.

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Hot Films on Ceramic Substrates for Measuring Skin Friction

Low-thermal-conductivity ceramic substrates, based on Space Shuttle tile technology, serve to increase sensitivity. Hot-film sensors, consisting of a metallic film on an electrically nonconductive substrate, have been used to measure skin friction as far back as 1931. A hot film is maintained at an elevated temperature relative to the local flow by passing an electrical current through it. The power required to maintain the specified temperature depends on the rate at which heat is transferred to the flow. The heat-transfer rate correlates to the velocity gradient at the surface, and hence, with skin friction. The hot-film skin friction measurement method is most thoroughly developed for steady-state conditions, but additional issues arise under transient conditions.

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