Tech Briefs

Patched Off-Axis Bending/Twisting Actuators for Thin Mirrors

Two documents present updates on thin-shell, adjustable, curved mirrors now being developed for use in spaceborne imaging systems.  These mirrors at an earlier stage of development were reported in “Nanolaminate Mirrors With Integral Figure-Control Actuators” (NPO-30221), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 26, No. 5 (May 2002), page 80. To recapitulate: These mirrors comprise metallic film reflectors on nanolaminate substrates that contain “in-plane” actuators for controlling surface figures with micronlevel precision. The actuators are integral parts of the mirror structures, typically fabricated as patches that are bonded onto the rear (nonreflective) surfaces of the mirror shells. The current documents discuss mathematical modeling of mirror deflections caused by actuators arranged in unit cells distributed across the rear mirror surfaces. One of the documents emphasizes an actuator configuration in which a mirror surface is divided into hexagonal unit cells. Each unit cell contains four rectangular actuator patches in an off-axis cruciform pattern to induce a combination of bending and twisting. For deflections to reduce certain optical aberrations, it is found that, relative to other configurations, this configuration involves a smaller areal density of actuators.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Nickel-Tin Electrode Materials for Nonaqueous Li-Ion Cells

Capacity densities exceed those of materials now commercially available for the same purpose. Experimental materials made from mixtures of nickel and tin powders have shown promise for use as the negative electrodes of rechargeable lithium-ion electrochemical power cells. During charging (or discharging) of a lithiumion cell, lithium ions are absorbed into (or desorbed from, respectively) the negative electrode, typically through an intercalation or alloying process. The negative electrodes (for this purpose, designated as anodes) in state-of-the-art Li-ion cells are made of graphite, in which intercalation occurs. Alternatively, the anodes can be made from metals, in which alloying can occur. For reasons having to do with the electrochemical potential of intercalated lithium, metallic anode materials (especially materials containing tin) are regarded as safer than graphite ones; in addition, such metallic anode materials have been investigated in the hope of obtaining reversible charge/discharge capacities greater than those of graphite anodes. However, until now, each of the tin-containing metallic anode formulations tested has been found to be inadequate in some respect.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Isogrid Membranes for Precise, Singly Curved Reflectors

Reinforcing meshes of fibers would prevent wrinkles and ripples. A new type of composite material has been proposed for membranes that would constitute the reflective surfaces of planned lightweight, single curvature (e.g., parabolic cylindrical) reflectors for some radar and radio communication systems. The proposed composite materials would consist of polyimide membranes containing embedded grids of high strength (e.g., carbon) fibers. The purpose of the fiber reinforcements, as explained in more detail below, is to prevent wrinkling or rippling of the membrane.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Photocatalytic Coats in Glass Drinking-Water Bottles

According to a proposal, the insides of glass bottles used to store drinking water would be coated with films consisting of or containing TiO2. In the presence of ultraviolet light, these films would help to remove bacteria, viruses, and trace organic contaminants from the water.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Automated Rapid Prototyping of 3D Ceramic Parts

Unlike in prior rapid-prototyping processes, there is no manual stacking of sheets. An automated system of manufacturing equipment produces three-dimensional (3D) ceramic parts specified by computational models of the parts. The system implements an advanced, automated version of a generic rapid-prototyping process in which the fabrication of an object having a possibly complex 3D shape includes stacking of thin sheets, the outlines of which closely approximate the horizontal cross sections of the object at their respective heights. In this process, the thin sheets are made of a ceramic precursor material, and the stack is subsequently heated to transform it into a unitary ceramic object.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs

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High-Temperature, High-Load-Capacity Radial Magnetic Bearing

Speed and temperature limits of rolling element bearings can be exceeded. A radial heteropolar magnetic bearing capable of operating at a temperature as high as 1,000 °F (≈540 °C) has been developed. This is a prototype of bearings for use in gas turbine engines operating at temperatures and speeds much higher than can be withstood by lubricated rolling-element bearings.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Improving Control in a Joule-Thomson Refrigerator

A report discusses a modified design of a Joule-Thomson (JT) refrigerator under development to be incorporated into scientific instrumentation aboard a spacecraft.In most other JT refrigerators (including common household refrigerators), the temperature of the evaporator (the cold stage) is kept within a desired narrow range by turning a compressor on and off as needed. This mode of control is inadequate for the present refrigerator because a JT-refrigerator compressor performs poorly when the flow from its evaporator varies substantially, and this refrigerator is required to maintain adequate cooling power. The proposed design modifications include changes in the arrangement of heat exchangers, addition of a clamp that would afford a controlled heat leak from a warmer to a cooler stage to smooth out temperature fluctuations in the cooler stage, and incorporation of a proportional + integral + derivative (PID) control system that would regulate the heat leak to maintain the temperature of the evaporator within a desired narrow range while keeping the amount of liquid in the evaporator within a very narrow range in order to optimize the performance of the compressor. Novelty lies in combining the temperature- and cooling-power-regulating controls into a single control system.

Posted in: Mechanics, Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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