Physical Sciences

Numerical Study of Pyrolysis of Biomass in Fluidized Beds

A report presents a numerical-simulation study of pyrolysis of biomass in fluidized-bed reactors, performed by use of the mathematical model described in "Model of Fluidized Bed Containing Reacting Solids and Gases" (NPO-30163), which appears elsewhere in this issue of NASA Tech Briefs. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of various operating conditions on the efficiency of production of condensable tar from biomass. The numerical results indicate that for a fixed particle size, the fluidizing-gas temperature is the foremost parameter that affects the tar yield. For the range of fluidizing-gas temperatures investigated, and under the assumption that the pyrolysis rate exceeds the feed rate, the optimum steady-state tar collection was found to occur at 750 K. In cases in which the assumption was not valid, the optimum temperature for tar collection was found to be only slightly higher. Scaling up of the reactor was found to exert a small negative effect on tar collection at the optimal operating temperature. It is also found that slightly better scaling is obtained by use of shallower fluidized beds with greater fluidization velocities.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Design processes, Mathematical models, Production, Gases, Thermal testing

Integrated Arrays of Ion-Sensitive Electrodes

Electronic "tongues" would "taste" selected ions in water.

The figure depicts an example of proposed compact water-quality sensors that would contain integrated arrays of ion-sensitive electrodes (ISEs). These sensors would serve as electronic "tongues": they would be placed in contact with water and used to "taste" selected dissolved ions (that is, they would be used to measure the concentrations of the ions). The selected ions could be any or all of a variety of organic and inorganic cations and anions that could be regarded as contaminants or analytes, depending on the specific application. In addition, some of the ISEs could be made sensitive to some neutral analytes (see table).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Water quality, Test equipment and instrumentation

Model of Fluidized Bed Containing Reacting Solids and Gases

This model can be used to optimize designs and operating conditions.

A mathematical model has been developed for describing the thermofluid dynamics of a dense, chemically reacting mixture of solid particles and gases. As used here, "dense" signifies having a large volume fraction of particles, as for example in a bubbling fluidized bed. The model is intended especially for application to fluidized beds that contain mixtures of carrier gases, biomass undergoing pyrolysis, and sand. So far, the design of fluidized beds and other gas/solid industrial processing equipment has been based on empirical correlations derived from laboratory- and pilot-scale units. The present mathematical model is a product of continuing efforts to develop a computational capability for optimizing the designs of fluidized beds and related equipment on the basis of first principles. Such a capability could eliminate the need for expensive, time-consuming predesign testing.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Mathematical models, Optimization, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamics, Gases

Using Diffusion Bonding in Making Piezoelectric Actuators

Fabrication is simplified and performance improved.

A technique for the fabrication of piezoelectric actuators that generate acceptably large forces and deflections at relatively low applied voltages involves the stacking and diffusion bonding of multiple thin piezoelectric layers coated with film electrodes. The present technique stands in contrast to an older technique in which the layers are bonded chemically, by use of urethane or epoxy agents.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Fabrication, Joining, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes

Turbulence in Supercritical O₂/H₂ and C₇H₁₆/N₂ Mixing Layers

This report presents a study of numerical simulations of mixing layers developing between opposing flows of paired fluids under supercritical conditions, the purpose of the study being to elucidate chemical-species- specific aspects of turbulence. The simulations were performed for two different fluid pairs — O2/H2 and C7H16/N2 — at similar reduced initial pressures (reduced pressure is defined as pressure ÷ critical pressure). Thermodynamically, O2/H2 behaves more nearly like an ideal mixture and has greater solubility, relative to C7H16/N2, which departs strongly from ideality. Because of a specified smaller initial density stratification, the C7H16/N2 layers exhibited greater levels of growth, global molecular mixing, and turbulence. However, smaller density gradients at the transitional state for the O2/H2 system were interpreted as indicating that locally, this system exhibits enhanced mixing as a consequence of its greater solubility and closer approach to ideality. These thermodynamic features were shown to affect entropy dissipation, which was found to be larger for O2/H2 and concentrated in high-density-gradient-magnitude regions that are distortions of the initial density-stratification boundary. In C7H16/N2, the regions of largest dissipation were found to lie in high-density-gradient-magnitude regions that result from mixing of the two fluids.

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

Throttling Cryogen Boiloff To Control Cryostat Temperature

Consumption of liquid cryogen and electrical energy could be reduced.

An improved design has been proposed for a cryostat of a type that maintains a desired low temperature mainly through boiloff of a liquid cryogen (e.g., liquid nitrogen) at atmospheric pressure. (A cryostat that maintains a low temperature mainly through boiloff of a cryogen at atmospheric pressure is said to be of the pour/fill Dewar-flask type because its main component is a Dewar flask, the top of which is kept open to the atmosphere so that the liquid cryogen can boil at atmospheric pressure and cryogenic liquid can be added by simply pouring it in.) The major distinguishing feature of the proposed design is control of temperature and cooling rate through control of the flow of cryogen vapor from a heat exchanger. At a cost of a modest increase in complexity, a cryostat according to the proposal would retain most of the compactness of prior, simpler pour/fill Dewar-flask cryostats, but would utilize cryogen more efficiently (intervals between cryogen refills could be longer).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Switches, Switches, Containers, Cooling

Thermo-Electron Ballistic Coolers or Heaters

These devices may surpass currently available thermoelectric devices.

Electronic heat-transfer devices of a proposed type would exploit some of the quantum-wire-like, pseudo-superconducting properties of single-wall carbon nanotubes or, optionally, room- temperature- superconducting polymers (RTSPs). The devices are denoted thermo-electron ballistic (TEB) coolers or heaters because one of the properties that they exploit is the totally or nearly ballistic (dissipation or scattering free) transport of electrons. This property is observed in RTSPs and carbon nanotubes that are free of material and geometric defects, except under conditions in which oscillatory electron motions become coupled with vibrations of the nanotubes. Another relevant property is the high number density of electrons passing through carbon nanotubes — sufficient to sustain electron current densities as large as 100 MA/cm2. The combination of ballistic motion and large current density should make it possible for TEB devices to operate at low applied potentials while pumping heat at rates several orders of magnitude greater than those of thermoelectric devices. It may also enable them to operate with efficiency close to the Carnot limit. In addition, the proposed TEB devices are expected to operate over a wider temperature range.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Heat exchangers, Heat exchangers, Cooling, Nanotechnology

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

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