Physical Sciences

Fuel Cell Would Generate Power From Martian Atmosphere

A report proposes the development of a thin-film fuel cell that would generate electric power from two minor constituents of the Martian atmosphere — O2 and CO. These compounds are generated continuously by photolysis of CO2, the major constituent. The fuel cell would include a cathode and an anode made of catalysts suitable for the selective low-temperature electrochemical reduction of O2 and oxidation of CO, respectively. It would also include a hygroscopic gel electrolyte.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Electric power, Fuel cells


Improved Automate System for Transferring Liquid Helium

Consumption of liquid helium would be reduced by optimizing use of vapor for precooling.An improved automated system for transferring liquid helium from a supply tank to an end-use cryostat has been proposed. Like automated systems developed previously for the same purpose, this system would reduce the time that must be spent by technicians in replenishing cryostats in equipment required to operate for times longer than cryostat holding times. However, relative to prior automated liquid-helium-transfer systems, this system would operate in a more nearly optimum manner so as to reduce the consumption of liquid helium. Examples of equipment with which this system could be used include apparatuses for long-duration scientific experiments and large cooled electromagnets in medical imaging systems

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Automation, Containers, Gases, Fueling safety


Algorithm for Computing Dynamics of Molecules

Equations of motion are solved more efficiently.The Newton-Euler Inverse Mass Operator (NEIMO) algorithm and software that implements the algorithm have been developed to reduce the amount of time needed to perform computational simulations of the dynamics of macromolecules. The NEIMO algorithm and the associated software are intended, in particular, for simulations of molecular motions at a space-time mesoscale, defined here as a length scale ranging from nanometers to micrometers and a time scale ranging from microseconds to milliseconds. Older molecular-dynamics algorithms and computer programs are not suitable for mesoscale simulations because they were formulated for the time scales, of the order of a microsecond or less, characteristic of such high-frequency degrees of freedom as stretching of molecular bonds.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computer simulation, Mathematical models, Measurements


Improving Thin Foil X-Ray Mirrors

Resolution and diameter would be increased.A proposal has been made to develop improved thin foil, replicated conical mirrors for use in x-ray astrophysics. In the NASA astrophysical programs in which such mirrors are used, they are required to be lightweight, and to offer moderate angular resolution and high throughput to afford required sensitivity in the photon-energy band from 0.1 to 20 keV. In the proposed improvement program, emphasis would be placed on increasing resolution and diameter:

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Mirrors


First-Generation Integrated Free-Flying Micro-Spacecraft

The concept of free-flying micro-spacecraft was to develop a miniature spacecraft system fully integrated with a scientific sensor. A fleet of such tiny spacecraft would be deployed in space for multi-probe measurements of a three-dimensional phenomenon and to separate the spatial/temporal variations of that phenomenon. They would measure a parameter of interest, process the data onboard, and communicate the data in real time.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Measurements, Data exchange, Sensors and actuators, Spacecraft


DNS of a Transitional Supercritical C7H16/N2 Mixing Layer

This report discusses direct numerical simulations (DNS) of a mixing layer, between a nitrogen stream and a heptane stream initially flowing at different velocities, under supercritical conditions and undergoing a transition to turbulence. Thermodynamically, supercritical conditions prevail when either the temperature or the pressure exceeds its critical value; the critical regime is in particular characterized by the existence of a single phase. The governing conservation equations were formulated according to fluctuation-dissipation (FD) theory, in which the low-pressure typical transport properties (viscosity, diffusivity, and thermal conductivity) are complemented, at high pressure, by a thermal-diffusion factor.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Computer simulation, Mathematical analysis, Thermodynamics


Built-in "Health Check" for Pressure Transducers

Calibrations could be verified approximately, without removing transducers to calibration laboratories. "Health check" would be built into pressure transducers, according to a proposal, to enable occasional, rapid, in situ testing of the transducers between normal pressure-measurement operations. The health check would include relatively simple devices that, upon command, would provide known stimuli to the transducers. The responses of the pressure transducers to these stimuli would be analyzed to quantify (at least approximately) deviations from the responses expected from previous rigorous calibrations. On the basis of such an analysis, a given pressure transducer could be removed from service, rigorously recalibrated, or continued in use with corrections applied for calibration drift. The use of the health check could provide timely warnings of pressure-transducer malfunctions and make it possible to retain confidence in the calibrations of pressure transducers while reducing the frequency with which they are replaced or subjected to full laboratory recalibration.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Test equipment and instrumentation


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