Tech Briefs

Inflatable Airlock Technologies

This technology can be used for tents, bags, barometric chambers, or wherever environmental barriers are needed.

An airlock used in space can provide the ability to leave a pressurized volume and enter free space. This is necessary to perform maintenance or make repairs to the pressurized volume or visiting spacecraft, construct or repair structures or devices, tend in-space experiments, etc. The airlock is used to provide the transition between internal pressurized volume, i.e. a shirtsleeve environment, and space. Current state-of-the-art units on the Space Station are rigid systems consisting of massive pressure vessels, hatches, and seals. Past efforts have investigated fabric-based ways of forming the airlock pressure volume, but all have used a more traditional metallic or composite door or hatch, which are heavy and difficult to package into a small volume. The need exists for an airlock, pressure vessel, and opening that are lightweight and can be packaged efficiently.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Nanowire “Inks” for Paper-Based Printable Electronics

Highly conductive films make functional circuits without adding high heat.

Printed electronics must be heated to melt all the nanoparticles together into a single conductive wire, making it impossible to print circuits on inexpensive plastics or paper. A study shows that tweaking the shape of the nanoparticles in the ink could eliminate the need for heat.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Portable Kit Recovers Traces of Chemical Evidence

This measurement kit can recover trace chemicals such as environmental pollutants, and forensic evidence such as arson fire debris.

An arson investigation typically requires collecting one or two liters of ashes and debris from various locations within a fire scene in metal cans similar to those used for paint, and sending the material to a lab. The testing methods typically include gas and liquid chromatography or various versions of spectroscopy, with gas chromatography being the most widely used in fire debris analysis. When the fire debris is received at the testing facility, samples are taken for testing. Sometimes this will involve suspending a strip with activated charcoal in the air or “headspace” directly above the sample in the metal can for a period of time that can vary, depending on the judgment of the analyst, for 2-3 hours or up to 16 hours.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement
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Optimized Route Finding for Air and Ground Vehicles

This software provides near-real-time potential, and offers collision and adverse weather avoidance.

The Automated Impacts Routing (AIR) software is advanced route finding technology for air and ground vehicles. The software provides users the ability to find optimized paths through airspace or ground space, taking into consideration multiple and dynamic adverse conditions that can determine mission success or failure.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Automated Transfer Function Generator

When designing or analyzing electrical systems, it is important to understand the relationship between input and output. Power conversion occurs in a “black box,” and transfer functions can be used to provide a better understanding of the processes occurring in this black box. Although they provide a useful analysis tool, transfer functions are not often utilized because they require complicated, time-consuming derivation that ignores nonlinear behavior common in real-world systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Ultralight, Scalable, High-Temperature-Resilient Ceramic Nanofiber Sponges

These sponges can be used for flexible insulation and water purification.

Researchers have made ultralight, highly porous, compressible, and heat-resistant sponge-like materials from nanoscale ceramic fibers. The highly deformable material is made by tangling ceramic nanofibers into a sponge. The method used is inexpensive and scalable for making large quantities.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Overspeed Protection for Turbine Flowmeters in Cryogenic Applications

Flowmeters for cryogenic applications often fail in service. Turbine flowmeters in particular fail due to very high speeds encountered during chill-down operations. Very cold, very high-velocity gas causes the turbine to spin uncontrollably, which quickly degrades bearings. Those flowmeters that do not fail are often unreliable, degrading their effectiveness as instrumentation to monitor and control cryogenic propellant loading.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement
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Wireless Ultrasonic Inspection Propulsion System

During inspection of pressure vessels and other large structures, an industry-accepted fixture is used to hold the search unit a predetermined distance from the area of interest under inspection. This fixture is then moved manually around the area of interest so that data can be collected and stored for later analysis. The fixture usually is chosen based on price and versatility; automated propulsion is not an option. This results in lower-quality data, as well as a greater chance that an anomaly could be missed due to the erratic motion inherent with manual manipulation.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion
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Towed-Glider Airborne Launch System Cuts Costs and Increases Efficiency and Safety

NASA seeks partners to collaborate in the development of this new approach for putting satellites in space, enabling low-cost launch services.

Putting a satellite into low Earth orbit requires a lot of energy, with ground-launched rockets expending two-thirds of their propellant fighting to get through the atmosphere. Researchers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center have developed an innovative approach to launching satellites into space from an airborne platform. As with other air-launch approaches, it provides significant flexibility in the location and direction of the launch vehicle. Furthermore, unlike other air-based launch techniques, this system avoids the significant drawbacks related to expensive and complex design/development efforts, difficult maneuvering, risks to crew, and inefficient flight performance.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion
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Handheld Device with Reagents for Detection and Diagnostics

The high risk associated with biological threat agents determines that any suspicious sample be handled under strict surety and safety controls, and processed under high-level containment in specialized laboratories. These specialized facilities are complex, very expensive to operate, and need to be staffed by personnel from an extremely limited pool of experts. In addition, safe means of transporting samples suspected of containing highly virulent agents to specialized high-level containment laboratories for analysis is also expensive, requiring, in many countries, the custody of armed personnel. It can be estimated that several million dollars are spent annually worldwide to secure and safely transport an increasing stream of suspicious biological samples that are collected in theaters of war, as well as in domestic environments.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement
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