Physical Sciences

Electron-Spin Filters Based on the Rashba Effect

Filters would be made from nonmagnetic semiconductors and operated without applied magnetic fields. Semiconductor electron-spin filters of a proposed type would be based on the Rashba effect, which is described briefly below. Electron-spin filters — more precisely, sources of spin-polarized electron currents — have been sought for research on, and development of, the emerging technological discipline of spintronics (spin-based electronics). There have been a number of successful demonstrations of injection of spin-polarized electrons from diluted magnetic semiconductors and from ferromagnetic metals into nonmagnetic semiconductors. In contrast, a device according to the proposal would be made from nonmagnetic semiconductor materials and would function without an applied magnetic field.

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Progress in Insect-Inspired Optical Navigation Sensors

Some details of implementation have become available. Progress has been made in continuing efforts to develop optical flight-control and navigation sensors for miniature robotic aircraft. The designs of these sensors are inspired by the designs and functions of the vision systems and brains of insects. Two types of sensors of particular interest are polarization compasses and ocellar horizon sensors. The basic principle of polarization compasses was described (but without using the term “polarization compass”) in “Insect-Inspired Flight Control for Small Flying Robots” (NPO-30545), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January 2005), page 61. To recapitulate: Bees use sky polarization patterns in ultraviolet (UV) light, caused by Rayleigh scattering of sunlight by atmospheric gas molecules, as direction references relative to the apparent position of the Sun. A robotic direction-finding technique based on this concept would be more robust in comparison with a technique based on the direction to the visible Sun because the UV polarization pattern is distributed across the entire sky and, hence, is redundant and can be extrapolated from a small region of clear sky in an elsewhere cloudy sky that hides the Sun.

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Sol-Gel Glass Holographic Light-Shaping Diffusers

Defined areas can be illuminated diffusely with high efficiency. Holographic glass light-shaping diffusers (GLSDs) are optical components for use in special-purpose illumination systems (see figure). When properly positioned with respect to lamps and areas to be illuminated, holographic GLSDs efficiently channel light from the lamps onto specified areas with specified distributions of illumination — for example, uniform or nearly uniform irradiance can be concentrated with intensity confined to a peak a few degrees wide about normal incidence, over a circular or elliptical area.

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Phase Correction for GPS Antenna With Nonunique Phase Center

Position can be determined more accurately. A method of determining the position and attitude of a body equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver includes an accounting for the location of the nonunique phase center of a distributed or wraparound GPS antenna. The method applies, more specifically, to the case in which (1) the GPS receiver utilizes measurements of the phases of GPS carrier signals in its position and attitude computations and (2) the body is axisymmetric (e.g., spherical or round cylindrical) and wrapped at its equator with a single- or multiple-element antenna, the radiation pattern of which is also axisymmetric with the same axis of symmetry as that of the body.

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Estimating Aeroheating of a 3D Body Using a 2D Flow Solver

A method for rapidly estimating the aeroheating, shear stress, and other properties of hypersonic flow about a three-dimensional (3D) blunt body has been devised. First, the geometry of the body is specified in Cartesian coordinates. The surface of the body is then described by its derivatives, coordinates, and principal curvatures. Next, previously relatively simple equations are used to find, for each desired combination of angle of attack and meridional angle, a scaling factor and the shape of an equivalent axisymmetric body. These factors and equivalent shapes are entered as inputs into a previously developed computer program that solves the two-dimensional (2D) equations of flow in a non-equilibrium viscous shock layer (VSL) about an axisymmetric body. The coordinates in the output of the VSL code are transformed back to the Cartesian coordinates of the 3D body, so that computed flow quantities can be registered with locations in the 3D flow field of interest. In tests in which the 3D bodies were elliptic paraboloids, the estimates obtained by use of this method were found to agree well with solutions of 3D, finite-rate-chemistry, thin-VSL equations for a catalytic body.

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Miniature Focusing Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer

Resolution is retained despite the reduction in size. An improved miniature time-of-flight mass spectrometer has been developed in a continuing effort to minimize the sizes, weights, power demands, and costs of mass spectrometers for such diverse applications as measurement of concentrations of pollutants in the atmosphere, detecting poisonous gases in mines, and analyzing exhaust gases of automobiles.

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Measuring Humidity in Sealed Glass Encasements

This noninvasive technique helps in the preservation of valuable documents. A technique has been devised for measuring the relative humidity levels in the protective helium/water vapor atmosphere in which the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are encased behind glass panels on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The technique is noninvasive: it does not involve penetrating the encasements (thereby risking contamination or damage to the priceless documents) to acquire samples of the atmosphere. The technique could also be applied to similar glass encasements used to protect and display important documents and other precious objects in museums.

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