Physical Sciences

Proton Collimators for Fusion Reactors

High-energy protons would be channeled into useful beams.

Proton collimators have been proposed for incorporation into inertial- electrostatic- confinement (IEC) fusion reactors. Such reactors have been envisioned as thrusters and sources of electric power for spacecraft and as sources of energetic protons in commercial ion-beam applications. An artist's concept for an IEC powered spaceship designed for round trip missions to Mars and Jupiter is shown in the figure.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Nuclear energy, Product development, Spacecraft

Floating Probe Assembly for Measuring Temperature of Water

Temperatures are measured at several depths.

A floating apparatus denoted a temperature probe aquatic suspension system (TPASS) has been developed for measuring the temperature of an ocean, lake, or other natural body of water at predetermined depths. These types of measurements are used in computer models to relate remotely sensed water-surface temperature to bulk- water temperature. Prior instruments built for the same purpose were found to give inaccurate readings because the apparatuses themselves significantly affected the temperatures of the water in their vicinities. The design of the TPASS is intended to satisfy a requirement to minimize the perturbation of the temperatures to be measured.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Mathematical models, Measurements, Water, Test equipment and instrumentation, Thermal testing

Subsonic and Supersonic Effects in Bose-Einstein Condensate

A paper presents a theoretical investigation of subsonic and supersonic effects in a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). The BEC is represented by a time-dependent, nonlinear Schroedinger equation that includes terms for an external confining potential term and a weak interatomic repulsive potential proportional to the number density of atoms. From this model are derived Madelung equations, which relate the quantum phase with the number density, and which are used to represent excitations propagating through the BEC. These equations are shown to be analogous to the classical equations of flow of an inviscid, compressible fluid characterized by a speed of sound (g/ρ0)1/2, where g is the coefficient of the repulsive potential and ρ0 is the unperturbed mass density of the BEC. The equations are used to study the effects of a region of perturbation moving through the BEC. The excitations created by a perturbation moving at subsonic speed are found to be described by a Laplace equation and to propagate at infinite speed. For a supersonically moving perturbation, the excitations are found to be described by a wave equation and to propagate at finite speed inside a Mach cone.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Mathematical models, Acoustics, Acoustics

Irreversible Entropy Production in Two-Phase Mixing Layers

This report presents a study of dissipation (irreversible production of entropy) in three-dimensional, temporal mixing layers laden with evaporating liquid drops. The purpose of the study is to examine the effects of evaporating drops on the development of turbulent features in flows. Direct numerical simulations were performed to analyze transitional states of three mixing layers: one without drops, and two that included drops at different initial mass loadings. Without drops, the dissipation is essentially due to viscous effects. It was found that in the presence of drops, the largest contribution to dissipation was made by heating and evaporation of the drops, and that at large length scales, this contribution is positive (signifying that the drops reduce turbulence), while at small scales, this contribution is negative (the drops increase turbulence). The second largest contribution to dissipation was found to be associated with the chemical potential, which leads to an increase in turbulence at large scales and a decrease in turbulence at small scales. The next smaller contribution was found to be that of viscosity. The fact that viscosity effects are only third in order of magnitude in the dissipation is in sharp contrast to the situation for the mixing layer without the drops. The next smaller contribution — that of the drag and momentum of the vapor from the drops — was found to be negative at lower mass loading but to become positive at higher mass loading.
Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Computer simulation, Fuel injection

Microscale Thermal-Transpiration Gas Pump

This is a prototype of miniature vacuum pumps with no moving parts.

A recent addition to the growing class of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) is a single stage of a Knudsen compressor. This device was fabricated and tested to demonstrate the feasibility of Knudsen compressors as miniature vacuum pumps for future portable scientific instruments. The attributes of Knudsen compressors that make them attractive as miniature vacuum pumps are that they contain no moving parts and operate without need for lubricants or working fluids.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Microelectricmechanical device, Microelectromechanical devices, Gases, Compressors, Pumps

Compact Instruments Measure Helium-Leak Rates

Compact, lightweight instruments have been developed for measuring small flows of helium and/or detecting helium leaks in solenoid valves when the valves are nominally closed. These instruments do not impede the flows when the valves are nominally open. They can be integrated into newly fabricated valves or retrofitted to previously fabricated valves. Each instrument includes an upstream and a downstream thermistor separated by a heater, plus associated analog and digital heater-control, signal-conditioning, and data-processing circuits. The thermistors and heater are off-the-shelf surface mount components mounted on a circuit board in the flow path. The operation of the instrument is based on a well-established thermal mass-flow-measurement technique: Convection by the flow that one seeks to measure gives rise to transfer of heat from the heater to the downstream thermistor. The temperature difference measured by the thermistors is directly related to the rate of flow. The calibration curve from temperature gradient to helium flow is closely approximated via fifth-order polynomial. A microprocessor that is part of the electronic circuitry implements the calibration curve to compute the flow rate from the thermistor readings.
Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Failure analysis, Integrated circuits, Integrated circuits, Gases, Valves, Test equipment and instrumentation

Improved Measurement of Coherence in Presence of Instrument Noise

The coherence function can be measured more accurately by accounting for the effects of instrument noise.

A method for correcting measured coherence spectra for the effect of incoherent instrument noise has been developed and demonstrated. Coherence measurements are widely used in engineering and science to determine the extent to which two signals are alike. The signals may come from two different sources or from the same source at different times. The coherence of time- lagged signals from a single source is an excellent indication of the effective lifetime of the signal components as a function of their frequency. Unfortunately, incoherent instrument noise will bias the measurement to lower values and may lead the user of the data to false conclusions about the longevity of significant features.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Measurements, Noise, Noise, Test procedures

Instrument for Measuring Temperature of Water

An infrared radiometer is able to view water as an almost pure blackbody source.

A pseudo-Brewster- angle infrared radiometer has been proposed for use in noncontact measurement of the surface temperature of a large body of water (e.g., a lake or ocean). This radiometer could be situated on a waterborne, airborne, or spaceborne platform.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Measurements, Lasers, Lasers, Water, Thermal testing

Evaluation of Charge Storage and Decay in Spacecraft Insulators

Two reports discuss methods for evaluating the magnitude of electrostatic charging that occurs in spacecraft dielectric materials (in particular, polyimides) during prolonged exposure to radiation in outer space. The reports describe experiments on the electrical resistivities and charge-storage properties of polyimide specimens in a dark, evacuated environment, both before and after 5-megarad exposures to Υ rays from cobalt-60. The experiments were designed to measure these properties not under standard conditions prescribed for testing dielectrics in air but, rather, under conditions approximating those in the intended spacecraft applications. The results of the experiments showed that the electrical resistivities of the insulations as determined under these conditions are greater, by a factor of roughly a thousand, than those determined under the standard conditions and that the g irradiation reduced resistivities marginally.
Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Insulation, Radiation protection, Test procedures, Spacecraft

Nanoscale Hot-Wire Probes for Boundary-Layer Flows

Flow parameters near walls would be measured with unprecedented resolution.

Hot-wire probes having dimensions of the order of nanometers have been proposed for measuring temperatures (and possibly velocities) in boundary-layer flows at spatial resolutions much finer and distances from walls much smaller than have been possible heretofore. The achievable resolutions and minimum distances are expected to be of the order of tens of nanometers — much less than a typical mean free path of a molecule and much less than the thickness of a typical flow boundary layer in air at standard temperature and pressure. An additional benefit of the small scale of these probes is that they would perturb the measured flows less than do larger probes.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Measurements, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Nanotechnology, Thermal testing

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