Physical Sciences

Autonomous Cryogenic Leak Detector for Improving Launch Site Operations

Virtually all storage tanks of hydrogen and other flammable gases could use this sensor technology. NASA, military, and commercial satellite users need launch services that are highly reliable, less complex, easier to test, and cost effective. This project has developed a tapered optical fiber sensor for detecting hydrogen. The invention involves incorporating chemical indicators on the tapered end of an optical fiber using organically modified silicate nanomaterials.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Submillimeter Planetary Atmospheric Chemistry Exploration Sounder

A report describes the Submillimeter Planetary Atmospheric Chemistry Exploration Sounder (SPACES), a highsensitivity laboratory breadboard for a spectrometer targeted at orbital planetary atmospheric analysis. The frequency range is 520 to 590 GHz, with a target noise temperature sensitivity of 2,500 K for detecting water, sulfur compounds, carbon compounds, and other atmospheric constituents. SPACES is a prototype for a powerful tool for the exploration of the chemistry and dynamics of any planetary atmosphere. It is fundamentally a single-pixel receiver for spectral signals emitted by the relevant constituents, intended to be fed by a fixed or movable telescope/antenna. Its front-end sensor translates the received signal down to the 100-MHz range where it can be digitized and the data transferred to a spectrum analyzer for processing, spectrum generation, and accumulation.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Micro-XRF for In Situ Geological Exploration of Other Planets

X-ray fluorescence instruments are used for non-destructive testing, sorting of recycled materials, and hazardous waste detection. In situ analysis of rock chemistry is a fundamental tool for exploration of planets. To meet this need, a high-spatial- resolution micro x-ray fluorescence (Micro-XRF) instrument was developed that is capable of determining the elemental composition of rocks (elements Na–U) with 100 μm spatial resolution, thus providing insight to the composition of features as small as sand grains and individual laminae. The resulting excitation beam is of sufficient intensity that high signal-to-noise punctual spectra are acquired in seconds to a few minutes using an Amptek Silicon Drift Detector (SDD).

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Hydrogen-Enhanced Lunar Oxygen Extraction and Storage Using Only Solar Power

Oxygen-generating concept can be developed in an efficient system with low specific mass. The innovation consists of a thermodynamic system for extracting in situ oxygen vapor from lunar regolith using a solar photovoltaic power source in a reactor, a method for thermally insulating the reactor, a method for protecting the reactor internal components from oxidation by the extracted oxygen, a method for removing unwanted chemical species produced in the reactor from the oxygen vapor, a method for passively storing the oxygen, and a method for releasing highpurity oxygen from storage for lunar use.

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Miniaturized, High-Speed, Modulated X-Ray Source

An extremely robust photon-driven electron source is used that can tolerate weeks or more of exposure to air. A low-cost, miniature x-ray source has been developed that can be modulated in intensity from completely off to full intensity on nanosecond timescales. This modulated x-ray source (MXS) has no filaments and is extremely rugged. The energy level of the MXS is adjustable from 0 to more than 100 keV. It can be used as the core of many new devices, providing the first practical, arbitrarily time-variable source of x-rays. The high-speed switching capability and miniature size make possible many new technologies including x-ray-based communication, compact time-resolved x-ray diffraction, novel xray fluorescence instruments, and low- and precise-dose medical x-rays.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Uplift of Ionospheric Oxygen Ions During Extreme Magnetic Storms

Research reported earlier in literature was conducted relating to estimation of the ionospheric electrical field, which may have occurred during the September 1859 Carrington geomagnetic storm event, with regard to modern-day consequences.

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Hollow-Fiber Spacesuit Water Membrane Evaporator

Commercial applications include personal coolers for infantry, humidifiers for pilots, and personal coolers for hazmat suits. The hollow-fiber spacesuit water membrane evaporator (HoFi SWME) is being developed to perform the thermal control function for advanced spacesuits and spacecraft to take advantage of recent advances in micropore membrane technology in providing a robust, heat-rejection device that is less sensitive to contamination than is the sublimator. After recent contamination tests, a commercial-off- the-shelf (COTS) micro porous hollow-fiber membrane was selected for prototype development as the most suitable candidate among commercial hollow-fiber evaporator alternatives. An innovative design that grouped the fiber layers into stacks, which were separated by small spaces and packaged into a cylindrical shape, was developed into a full-scale prototype for the spacesuit application.

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