Manufacturing & Prototyping

Process To Create High-Fidelity Lunar Dust Simulants

A method was developed to create high-fidelity lunar dust simulants that better match the unique properties of lunar dust than the existing simulants. The new dust simulant is designed to more closely approximate the size, morphology, composition, and other important properties of lunar dust (including the presence of nanophase iron).

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Scale models, Particulate matter (PM), Soils, Fabrication, Materials properties

Producing Hydrogen by Plasma Pyrolysis of Methane

Plasma pyrolysis offers several advantages over traditional catalytic pyrolysis.

Plasma pyrolysis of methane has been investigated for utility as a process for producing hydrogen. This process was conceived as a means of recovering hydrogen from methane produced as a byproduct of operation of a life-support system aboard a spacecraft. On Earth, this process, when fully developed, could be a means of producing hydrogen (for use as a fuel) from methane in natural gas.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Hydrogen fuel, Methane, On-board energy sources, Spacecraft fuel, Life support systems

Self-Deployable Membrane Structures

These support structures can be used as portable shelters, camping tents, and thermal insulation.

Currently existing approaches for deployment of large, ultra-lightweight gossamer structures in space rely typically upon electromechanical mechanisms and mechanically expandable or inflatable booms for deployment and to maintain them in a fully deployed, operational configuration. These support structures, with the associated deployment mechanisms, launch restraints, inflation systems, and controls, can comprise more than 90 percent of the total mass budget. In addition, they significantly increase the stowage volume, cost, and complexity.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Lightweight materials, Materials properties, Spacecraft

Reactivation of a Tin-Oxide-Containing Catalyst

This technique extends the lifetime of a catalyst in a laser discharge.

The electrons in electric-discharge CO2 lasers cause dissociation of some CO2 into O2 and CO, and attach themselves to electronegative molecules such as O2, forming negative O2 ions, as well as larger negative ion clusters by collisions with CO or other molecules. The decrease in CO2 concentration due to dissociation into CO and O2 will reduce the average repetitively pulsed or continuous wave laser power, even if no disruptive negative ion instabilities occur. Accordingly, it is the primary object of this invention to extend the lifetime of a catalyst used to combine the CO and O2 products formed in a laser discharge.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Lasers, Lasers, Carbon dioxide, Catalysts

Nearly Seamless Vacuum-Insulated Boxes

Elimination of most seams would reduce leakage of heat.

A design concept, and a fabrication process that would implement the design concept, have been proposed for nearly seamless vacuum-insulated boxes that could be the main structural components of a variety of controlled-temperature containers, including common household refrigerators and insulating containers for shipping foods. In a typical case, a vacuum-insulated box would be shaped like a rectangular parallelepiped conventional refrigerator box having five fully closed sides and a hinged door on the sixth side. Although it is possible to construct the five-closed-side portion of the box as an assembly of five unitary vacuum-insulated panels, it is not desirable to do so because the relatively high thermal conductances of the seams between the panels would contribute significant amounts of heat leakage, relative to the leakage through the panels themselves. In contrast, the proposal would make it possible to reduce heat leakage by constructing the five-closed-side portion of the box plus the stationary portion (if any) of the sixth side as a single, seamless unit; the only remaining seam would be the edge seal around the door.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Containers, Fabrication, Insulation, Seals and gaskets

Fast-Response-Time Shape-Memory-Effect Foam Actuators

Bulk shape memory alloys, such as Nitinol or CuAlZn, display strong recovery forces undergoing a phase transformation after being strained in their martensitic state. These recovery forces are used for actuation. As the phase transformation is thermally driven, the response time of the actuation can be slow, as the heat must be passively inserted or removed from the alloy.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Foams, Smart materials, Performance tests

Non-Pyrotechnic Zero-Leak Normally Closed Valve

This valve is designed to create a zero-leak seal in a liquid propulsion system that is a functional replacement for the normally closed pyrovalve. Unlike pyrovalves, Nitinol is actuated by simply heating the material to a certain temperature, called the transition temperature. Like a pyrovalve, before actuation, the upstream and downstream sections are separated from one another and from the external environment by closed welded seals. Also like pyrovalves, after actuation, the propellant or pressurant gas can flow without a significant pressure drop but are still separated from the external environment by a closed welded seal.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Valves, Liquid propellant rocket engines

Quick-Change Ceramic Flame Holder for High-Output Torches

In addition to jet engine simulation, this technology can be used in torches for forging and pottery kilns.

Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center have developed a new ceramic design flame holder with a service temperature of 4,000 °F (2,204 °C). The combination of high strength and high temperature capability, as well as a twist-lock mounting method to the steel burner, sets this flame holder apart from existing technology.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Ceramics, Heat resistant materials, Fittings, Mountings, Nozzles

Processing Nanostructured Sensors Using Microfabrication Techniques

Nanostructured sensors have uses in safety, environmental monitoring, fire detection, and security.

Standard microfabrication techniques can be implemented and scaled to help assemble nanoscale microsensors. Currently nanostructures are often deposited onto materials primarily by adding them to a solution, then applying the solution in a thin film. This results in random placement of the nanostructures with no controlled order, and no way to accurately reproduce the placement. This method changes the means by which microsensors with nanostructures are fabricated. The fundamental advantage to this approach is that it enables standard microfabrication techniques to be applied in the repeated manufacture of nanostructured sensors on a microplatform.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Fabrication, Nanotechnology

Modular Habitats Comprising Rigid and Inflatable Modules

Potential applications include hurricane-relief housing.

Modular, lightweight, fully equipped buildings comprising hybrids of rigid and inflatable structures can be assembled on Earth and then transported to and deployed on the Moon for use as habitats. Modified versions of these buildings could also prove useful on Earth as shelters that can be rapidly and easily erected in emergency situations and/or extreme environments: examples include shelters for hurricane relief and for Antarctic exploration.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Life support systems, Composite materials, Fabrics, Materials properties

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.