Tech Briefs

Device for Automated Cutting and Transfer of Plant Shoots

This device is simple yet effective. A device that enables the automated cutting and transfer of plant shoots is undergoing development for use in the propagation of plants in a nursery or laboratory. At present, it is standard practice for a human technician to use a knife and forceps to cut, separate, and grasp a plant shoot. The great advantage offered by the present device is that its design and operation are simpler than would be those of a device based on the manual cutting/separation/grasping procedure. [The present device should not be confused with a prior device developed for partly the same purpose and described in "Compliant Gripper for a Robotic Manipulator" (NPO-21104), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 27, No. 3 (March 2003), page 59.]

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Extension of Liouville Formalism to Postinstability Dynamics

A fictitious stabilizing force is introduced. A mathematical formalism has been developed for predicting the postinstability motions of a dynamic system governed by a system of nonlinear equations and subject to initial conditions. Previously, there was no general method for prediction and mathematical modeling of postinstability behaviors (e.g., chaos and turbulence) in such a system.

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Scaling of Two-Phase Flows to Partial-Earth Gravity

A report presents a method of scaling, to partial-Earth gravity, of parameters that describe pressure drops and other characteristics of two-phase (liquid/ vapor) flows. The development of the method was prompted by the need for a means of designing two-phase flow systems to operate on the Moon and on Mars, using fluid- properties and flow data from terrestrial two-phase-flow experiments, thus eliminating the need for partial-gravity testing. The report presents an explicit procedure for designing an Earth-based test bed that can provide hydrodynamic similarity with two-phase fluids flowing in partial-gravity systems. The procedure does not require prior knowledge of the flow regime (i.e., the spatial orientation of the phases). The method also provides for determination of pressure drops in two-phase partial-gravity flows by use of a generalization of the classical Moody chart (previously applicable to single-phase flow only). The report presents experimental data from Mars- and Moon-activity experiments that appear to demonstrate the validity of this method.

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Swarms of Micron-Sized Sensors

A paper presents the concept of swarms of micron-sized and smaller carriers of sensing equipment, denoted generally as controllable granular matter, to be used in exploring remote planets and interplanetary space. The design and manufacture of controllable granular matter would exploit advances in microelectromechanical systems and nanotechnology. Depending on specific designs and applications, controllable granular matter could have characteristics like those of powders, sands, or aerosols, which would be dispersed into the environments to be explored: For example, sensory grains could be released into orbit around a planet, spread out over ground, or dispersed into wind or into a body of liquid. The grains would thus become integral parts of multiphase environments, where they would function individually and/or collectively to gather information about the environments. In cases of clouds of grains dispersed in outer space, it may be feasible to use laser beams to shape the clouds to perform specific functions. To enable the full utilization of controllable granular matter, it is necessary to advance the knowledge of the dynamics and controllable characteristics of both individual grains and the powders, sands, or aerosols of which they are parts.

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Three-Dimensional Venturi Sensor for Measuring Extreme Winds

Advantageous features include ruggedness, rapid response, and high dynamic range. A three-dimensional (3D) Venturi sensor is being developed as a compact, rugged means of measuring wind vectors having magnitudes of as much as 300 mph (134 m/s). This sensor also incorporates auxiliary sensors for measuring temperature from -40 to +120 °F (-40 to +49 °C), relative humidity from 0 to 100 percent, and atmospheric pressure from 846 to 1,084 millibar (85 to 108 kPa).

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Oxygen-Partial-Pressure Sensor for Aircraft Oxygen Mask

Vibration of the mask against the wearer's nose warns of low oxygen pressure. A device that generates an alarm when the partial pressure of oxygen decreases to less than a preset level has been developed to help prevent hypoxia in a pilot or other crewmember of a military or other high-performance aircraft. Loss of oxygen partial pressure can be caused by poor fit of the mask or failure of a hose or other component of an oxygen-distribution system. The deleterious physical and mental effects of hypoxia cause the loss of a military aircraft and crew every few years.

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Software for Managing Parametric Studies

The Information Power Grid Virtual Laboratory (ILab) is a Practical Extraction and Reporting Language (PERL) graphical-user-interface computer program that generates shell scripts to facilitate parametric studies performed on the Grid. (“The Grid” denotes a worldwide network of supercomputers used for scientific and engineering computations involving data sets too large to fit on desktop computers.) Heretofore, parametric studies on the Grid have been impeded by the need to create control language scripts and edit input data files — painstaking tasks that are necessary for managing multiple jobs on multiple computers. ILab reflects an object-oriented approach to automation of these tasks: All data and operations are organized into packages in order to accelerate development and debugging. A “container” or “document” object in ILab, called an “experiment,” contains all the information (data and file paths) necessary to define a complex series of repeated, sequenced, and/or branching processes. For convenience and to enable reuse, this object is serialized to and from disk storage. At run time, the current ILab experiment is used to generate required input files and shell scripts, create directories, copy data files, and then both initiate and monitor the execution of all computational processes.

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