Tech Briefs

Algorithm for Automated Detection of Edges of Clouds

The algorithm has been shown to be reliable and robust.

An algorithm processes cloud-physics data gathered in situ by an aircraft, along with reflectivity data gathered by ground-based radar, to determine whether the aircraft is inside or outside a cloud at a given time. A cloud edge is deemed to be detected when the in/out state changes, subject to a hysteresis constraint. Such determinations are important in continuing research on relationships among lightning, electric charges in clouds, and decay of electric fields with distance from cloud edges.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Mathematical models, Measurements, Electromagnetic compatibility, Radar, Weather and climate, Aircraft operations

Exploiting Quantum Resonance to Solve Combinatorial Problems

Quantum resonance would be exploited in a proposed quantum-computing approach to the solution of combinatorial optimization problems. In quantum computing in general, one takes advantage of the fact that an algorithm cannot be decoupled from the physical effects available to implement it. Prior approaches to quantum computing have involved exploitation of only a subset of known quantum physical effects, notably including parallelism and entanglement, but not including resonance. In the proposed approach, one would utilize the combinatorial properties of tensor-product decomposability of unitary evolution of many-particle quantum systems for physically simulating solutions to NP-complete problems (a class of problems that are intractable with respect to classical methods of computation). In this approach, reinforcement and selection of a desired solution would be executed by means of quantum resonance. Classes of NP-complete problems that are important in practice and could be solved by the proposed approach include planning, scheduling, search, and optimal design.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Mathematical models, Architecture, Computer software and hardware, Acoustics

A Concept for Run-Time Support of the Chapel Language

A document presents a concept for run-time implementation of other concepts embodied in the Chapel programming language. (Now undergoing development, Chapel is intended to become a standard language for parallel computing that would surpass older such languages in both computational performance in the efficiency with which pre-existing code can be reused and new code written.) The aforementioned other concepts are those of distributions, domains, allocations, and access, as defined in a separate document called “A Semantic Framework for Domains and Distributions in Chapel” and linked to a language specification defined in another separate document called “Chapel Specification 0.3.” The concept presented in the instant report is recognition that a data domain that was invented for Chapel offers a novel approach to distributing and processing data in a massively parallel environment. The concept is offered as a starting point for development of working descriptions of functions and data structures that would be necessary to implement interfaces to a compiler for transforming the aforementioned other concepts from their representations in Chapel source code to their run-time implementations.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Architecture, Computer software and hardware, Data exchange, Data management

System for Continuous Deaeration of Hydraulic Oil

The proportion of dissolved air is reliably maintained below 1 volume percent.

A system for continuous, rapid deaeration of hydraulic oil has been built to replace a prior system that effected deaeration more slowly in a cyclic pressure/vacuum process. Such systems are needed because (1) hydraulic oil has an affinity for air, typically containing between 10 and 15 volume percent of air and (2) in the original application for which these systems were built, there is a requirement to keep the proportion of dissolved air below 1 volume percent because a greater proportion can lead to pump cavitation and excessive softness in hydraulic-actuator force-versus-displacement characteristics. In addition to overcoming several deficiencies of the prior deaeration system, the present system removes water from the oil.
Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Water, Gases, Hydraulic fluids

Tool for Two Types of Friction Stir Welding

The same mechanism could be used for conventional or selfreacting FSW.

A tool that would be useable in both conventional and self-reacting friction stir welding (FSW) has been proposed. The tool would embody both a prior tooling concept for self-reacting FSW and an auto-adjustable pin-tool (APT) capability developed previously as an augmentation for conventional FSW.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Tools and equipment, Product development, Welding

Spacecraft Escape Capsule

A report discusses the Gumdrop capsule — a conceptual spacecraft that would enable the crew to escape safely in the event of a major equipment failure at any time from launch through atmospheric re-entry. The scaleable Gumdrop capsule would comprise a command module (CM), a service module (SM), and a crew escape system (CES). The CM would contain a pressurized crew environment that would include avionic, life-support, thermal control, propulsive attitude control, and recovery systems. The SM would provide the primary propulsion and would also supply electrical power, life-support resources, and active thermal control to the CM. The CES would include a solid rocket motor, embedded within the SM, for pushing the CM away from the SM in the event of a critical thermal-protection system failure or loss of control. The CM and SM would normally remain integrated with each other from launch through recovery, but could be separated using the CES, if necessary, to enable the safe recovery of the crew in the CM. The crew escape motor could be used, alternatively, as a redundant means of de-orbit propulsion for the CM in the event of a major system failure in the SM.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Avionics, Electronic control systems, Life support systems, Evacuation and escape, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft

Improved Oxygen-Beam Texturing of Glucose-Monitoring Optics

Textures can be more nearly optimized for greater utilization of light.

An improved method has been devised for using directed, hyperthermal beams of oxygen atoms and ions to impart desired textures to the tips of polymethylmethacrylate [PMMA] optical fibers to be used in monitoring the glucose content of blood. The improved method incorporates, but goes beyond, the method described in “Texturing Blood- Glucose-Monitoring Optics Using Oxygen Beams” (LEW-17642- 1), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 29, No. 4 (April 2005), page 11a. The basic principle of operation of such a glucose-monitoring sensor is as follows: The textured surface of the optical fiber is coated with chemicals that interact with glucose in such a manner as to change the reflectance of the surface. Light is sent down the optical fiber and is reflected from, the textured surface. The resulting change in reflectance of the light is measured as an indication of the concentration of glucose.
Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Fiber optics, Fluids and secretions, Medical equipment and supplies, Chemicals

SiC Composite Turbine Vanes

Y-cloth was conceived to provide fiber reinforcement for sharp trailing edges.

Turbine inlet guide vanes have been fabricated from composites of silicon carbide fibers in silicon carbide matrices. A unique design for a cloth made from SiC fibers makes it possible to realize the geometric features necessary to form these vanes in the same airfoil shapes as those of prior metal vanes.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Forming, Composite materials, Fabrics, Silicon alloys, Fans, Gas turbines

Thermoelectric Inhomogeneities in (Ag1-SbTe2)x(PbTe)1-x

A document presents a study of why materials of composition (Ag1–ySbTe2)0.05 (PbTe)0.95 [0=y=1] were previously reported to have values of the thermoelectric figure of merit [ZT (where Z = a2/??, a is the Seebeck coefficient, ? is electrical resistivity, ? is thermal conductivity, and T is absolute temperature)] ranging from 2. In the study, samples of (AgSbTe2)0.05(PbTe)0.95, (Ag0.67SbTe2)0.05 (PbTe)0.95, and (Ag0.55SbTe2)0.05(PbTe)0.95 were prepared by melting followed, variously, by slow or rapid cooling. Analyses of these samples by x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, and scanning microprobe measurements of the Seebeck coefficient led to the conclusion that these materials have a multiphase character on a scale of the order of millimeters, even though they appear homogeneous in x-ray diffraction and electron microscopy. The Seebeck measurements showed significant variations, including both n-type and p-type behavior in the same sample. These variations were found to be consistent with observed variations of ZT. The rapidly quenched samples were found to be less inhomogeneous than were the furnace-cooled ones; hence, rapid quenching was suggested as a basis of research on synthesizing more nearly uniform high-ZT samples.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Heat transfer, Thermodynamics, Composite materials, Test procedures, Thermal testing

Oxygen-Permeable, Hydrophobic Membranes of Silanized α-Al2O3

These membranes perform better than do organic polymer oxygen-diffusion membranes.

Membranes made of silanized alumina have been prepared and tested as prototypes of derivatized ceramic membranes that are both highly permeable to oxygen and hydrophobic. Improved oxygen-permeable, hydrophobic membranes would be attractive for use in several technological disciplines, including supporting high-temperature aqueous-phase oxidation in industrial production of chemicals, oxygenation of aqueous streams for bioreactors, and oxygenation of blood during open-heart surgery and in cases of extreme pulmonary dysfunction. In comparison with organic polymeric oxygen-permeable membranes now commercially available, the derivatized ceramic membranes are more chemically robust, are capable of withstanding higher temperatures, and exhibit higher oxygen-diffusion coefficients.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Product development, Aluminum alloys, Ceramics, Materials properties, Performance tests

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