Physical Sciences

Slat Heater Boxes for Thermal Vacuum Testing

Slat heater boxes have been invented for controlling the sink temperatures of objects under test in a thermal vacuum chamber, the walls of which are cooled to the temperature of liquid nitrogen. A slat heater box (see Figure 1) includes a framework of struts that support electrically heated slats that are coated with a high-emissivity optically gray paint. The slats can be grouped together into heater zones for the purpose of maintaining an even temperature within each side.

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Electrical-Impedance-Based Ice-Thickness Gauges

Compact, inexpensive gauges provide early warnings of accretion of ice. Langley Research Center has developed electrical- impedance- based icethickness gauges and is seeking partners and collaborators to commercialize them. When used as parts of active monitoring and diagnostic systems, these gauges make it possible to begin deicing or to take other protective measures before ice accretes to dangerous levels. These gauges are inexpensive, small, and simple to produce. They can be adapted to use on a variety of stationary and moving structures that are subject to accumulation of ice. Examples of such structures include aircraft, cars, trucks, ships, buildings, towers, power lines (see figure), power-generating equipment, water pipes, freezer compartments, and cooling coils.

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System for Testing Thermal Insulation of Pipes

Thermal and flow conditions are carefully controlled to minimize errors. An apparatus and method have been developed for measuring the rates of leakage of heat into pipes carrying liquids, the purpose of the measurements being to quantify the thermal performance of the insulation system. The apparatus is designed primarily for testing pipes used to carry cryogenic liquids, but can also be used for measuring the thermal performance of other insulated pipes or piping systems.

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Scaling of Two-Phase Flows to Partial-Earth Gravity

A report presents a method of scaling, to partial-Earth gravity, of parameters that describe pressure drops and other characteristics of two-phase (liquid/ vapor) flows. The development of the method was prompted by the need for a means of designing two-phase flow systems to operate on the Moon and on Mars, using fluid- properties and flow data from terrestrial two-phase-flow experiments, thus eliminating the need for partial-gravity testing. The report presents an explicit procedure for designing an Earth-based test bed that can provide hydrodynamic similarity with two-phase fluids flowing in partial-gravity systems. The procedure does not require prior knowledge of the flow regime (i.e., the spatial orientation of the phases). The method also provides for determination of pressure drops in two-phase partial-gravity flows by use of a generalization of the classical Moody chart (previously applicable to single-phase flow only). The report presents experimental data from Mars- and Moon-activity experiments that appear to demonstrate the validity of this method.

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Swarms of Micron-Sized Sensors

A paper presents the concept of swarms of micron-sized and smaller carriers of sensing equipment, denoted generally as controllable granular matter, to be used in exploring remote planets and interplanetary space. The design and manufacture of controllable granular matter would exploit advances in microelectromechanical systems and nanotechnology. Depending on specific designs and applications, controllable granular matter could have characteristics like those of powders, sands, or aerosols, which would be dispersed into the environments to be explored: For example, sensory grains could be released into orbit around a planet, spread out over ground, or dispersed into wind or into a body of liquid. The grains would thus become integral parts of multiphase environments, where they would function individually and/or collectively to gather information about the environments. In cases of clouds of grains dispersed in outer space, it may be feasible to use laser beams to shape the clouds to perform specific functions. To enable the full utilization of controllable granular matter, it is necessary to advance the knowledge of the dynamics and controllable characteristics of both individual grains and the powders, sands, or aerosols of which they are parts.

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Three-Dimensional Venturi Sensor for Measuring Extreme Winds

Advantageous features include ruggedness, rapid response, and high dynamic range. A three-dimensional (3D) Venturi sensor is being developed as a compact, rugged means of measuring wind vectors having magnitudes of as much as 300 mph (134 m/s). This sensor also incorporates auxiliary sensors for measuring temperature from -40 to +120 °F (-40 to +49 °C), relative humidity from 0 to 100 percent, and atmospheric pressure from 846 to 1,084 millibar (85 to 108 kPa).

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Oxygen-Partial-Pressure Sensor for Aircraft Oxygen Mask

Vibration of the mask against the wearer's nose warns of low oxygen pressure. A device that generates an alarm when the partial pressure of oxygen decreases to less than a preset level has been developed to help prevent hypoxia in a pilot or other crewmember of a military or other high-performance aircraft. Loss of oxygen partial pressure can be caused by poor fit of the mask or failure of a hose or other component of an oxygen-distribution system. The deleterious physical and mental effects of hypoxia cause the loss of a military aircraft and crew every few years.

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