Tech Briefs

Higher-Order Finite Elements for Computing Thermal Radiation

Computationally efficient methods yield close approximations of exact solutions. Two variants of the finite-element method have been developed for use in computational simulations of radiative transfers of heat among diffuse gray surfaces. Both variants involve the use of higher-order finite elements, across which temperatures and radiative quantities are assumed to vary according to certain approximations. In this and other applications, higherorder finite elements are used to increase (relative to classical finite elements, which are assumed to be isothermal) the accuracies of final numerical results without having to refine computational meshes excessively and thereby incur excessive computation times.One of the variants is termed the radiation sub-element (RSE) method, which, itself, is subject to a number of variations. This is the simplest and most straightforward approach to representation of spatially variable surface radiation. Any computer code that, heretofore, could model surface-to-surface radiation can incorporate the RSE method without major modifications.

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Automation of Design Engineering Processes

A method facilitates ISO 9001 compliance and eliminates voluminous, difficult-to-manage paper files. A method, and a computer program that helps to implement the method, have been developed to automate and systematize the retention and retrieval of all the written records generated during the process of designing a complex engineering system. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that “all the written records” as used here is meant to be taken literally: it signifies not only final drawings and final engineering calculations but also such ancillary documents as minutes of meetings, memoranda, requests for design changes, approval and review documents, and reports of tests. One important purpose served by the method is to make the records readily available to all involved users via their computer workstations from one computer archive while eliminating the need for voluminous paper files stored in different places. Another important purpose served by the method is to facilitate the work of engineers who are charged with sustaining the system and were not involved in the original design decisions. The method helps the sustaining engineers to retrieve information that enables them to retrace the reasoning that led to the original design decisions, thereby helping them to understand the system better and to make informed engineering choices pertaining to maintenance and/or modifications of the system. The software used to implement the method is written in Microsoft Access. All of the documents pertaining to the design of a given system are stored in one relational database in such a manner that they can be related to each other via a single tracking number. In addition to improving the management of records of the design process, the method can be utilized to improve the design process itself in a number of ways that include the following:

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Curing Composite Materials Using Lower-Energy Electron Beams

Less shielding is needed at lower beam energies. In an improved method of fabricating composite-material structures by laying up prepreg tapes (tapes of fiber reinforcement impregnated by uncured matrix materials) and then curing them, one cures the layups by use of beams of electrons having kinetic energies in the range of 200 to 300 keV. In contrast, in a prior method, one used electron beams characterized by kinetic energies up to 20 MeV. The improved method was first suggested by an Italian group in 1993, but had not been demonstrated until recently.

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Aluminum-Alloy-Matrix/Alumina-Reinforcement Composites

Relatively inexpensive, lightweight composite parts could be substitutes for some superalloy parts. Isotropic composites of aluminumalloy matrices reinforced with particulate alumina have been developed as lightweight, high-specific-strength, essexpensive alternatives to nickel-base and ferrous superalloys. These composites feature a specific gravity of about 3.45 g/cm3 and specific strengths of about 200 MPa/(g/cm3). The room-temperature tensile strength is 100 ksi (689 MPa) and stiffness is 30 Msi (206 GPa). At 500 °F (260 °C), these composites have shown 80 percent retention in strength and 95 percent retention in stiffness. These materials also have excellent fatigue tolerance and tribological properties. They can be fabricated in net (or nearly net) sizes and shapes to make housings, pistons, valves, and ducts in turbomachinery, and to make structural components of such diverse systems as diesel engines, automotive brake systems, and power-generation, mining, and oil-drilling equipment. Separately,incorporation of these metal matrix composites within aluminum gravity castings for localized reinforcement has been demonstrated.

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Fibrous-Ceramic/Aerogel Composite Insulating Tiles

The best features of aerogels and fibrous ceramics are exploited. Fibrous-ceramic/aerogel composite tiles have been invented to afford combinations of thermal-insulation and mechanical properties superior to those attainable by making tiles of fibrous ceramics alone or aerogels alone. These lightweight tiles can be tailored to a variety of applications that range from insulating cryogenic tanks to protecting spacecraft against reentry heating.

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Urethane/Silicone Adhesives for Bonding Flexing Metal Parts

These adhesives make strong, flexible bonds. Adhesives that are blends of commercially available urethane and silicone adhesives have been found to be useful for bonding metal parts that flex somewhat during use. These urethane/silicone adhesives are formulated for the specific metal parts to be bonded. The bonds formed by these adhesives have peel and shear strengths greater than those of bonds formed by double-sided tapes and by other adhesives, including epoxies and neat silicones. In addition, unlike the bonds formed by epoxies, the bonds formed by these adhesives retain flexibility.

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Windows®-Based Software Models Cyclic Oxidation Behavior

Oxidation of high-temperature aerospace materials is a universal issue for combustion-path components in turbine or rocket engines. In addition to the question of the consumption of material due to growth of protective scale at use temperatures, there is also the question of cyclic effects and spallation of scale on cooldown. The spallation results in the removal of part of the protective oxide in a discontinuous step and thereby opens the way for more rapid oxidation upon reheating. In experiments, cyclic oxidation behavior is most commonly characterized by measuring changes in weight during extended time intervals that include hundreds or thousands of heating and cooling cycles. Weight gains occurring during isothermal scale-growth processes have been well characterized as being parabolic or nearly parabolic functions of time because diffusion controls reaction rates. In contrast, the net weight change in cyclic oxidation is the sum of the effects of the growth and spallation of scale. Typically, the net weight gain in cyclic oxidation is determined only empirically (that is, by measurement), with no unique or straightforward mathematical connection to either the rate of growth or the amount of metal consumed. Thus, there is a need for mathematical modeling to infer spallation mechanisms.

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