Tech Briefs

Asymmetric Dielectric Elastomer Composite Material

This material has applications in artificial muscle and hearts, physical therapy/rehab devices, morphing aircraft, robotics, and sensors.

This electronic active material converts a voltage input to a mechanical force and mechanical displacement output. As compared to prior dielectric elastomer (DE) systems, the material has reduced electrode spacing, which lowers significantly the required operating voltage. In addition, the inclusion of a combination of conducting and/or non-conducting reinforcing fibers greatly enhances the strength of the material, without weight penalty.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Voltage regulators, Composite materials, Elastomers, Fibers

Multi-Functional Annular Fairing for Coupling Launch Abort Motor to Space Vehicle

An efficient aerodynamic shape reduces drag and enables increased payload and mass to orbit.

NASA's Langley Research Center has designed a Multifunctional Boost Protective Cover (MBPC) for a Launch Abort System (LAS). In the event of a crewed launch, the innovation provides a redundant means of saving the crew, and for an unmanned launch, it provides the means for recovering a very expensive, sensitive, and/or dangerous payload. In addition, costs are reduced by minimizing insurance premiums and costly delays to fabricate new, complex satellite systems in the event of a failed launch. NASA is seeking development partners and potential licensees.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Fairings, Active safety systems, Launch vehicles, Spacecraft

Flame Holder System

Potential applications include jet engine simulation, and torches for forging, casting furnaces, and pottery kilns.

NASA's Langley Research Center is seeking to improve upon stock stainless steel flame holders. Researchers at NASA Langley have developed a new ceramic design with a service temperature of 4000 °F. The combination of high strength and high temperature capability, and a twist lock mounting method to the steel burner, sets this flame holder apart from existing technology.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Ceramics, Heat resistant materials, Steel, Nozzles, Rocket engines

In-Situ Load System for Calibrating and Validating Aerodynamic Properties of Scaled Aircraft in Ground-Based Aerospace Testing Applications

ILS improves testing accuracy, repeatability, time in tunnel, and many aspects of the calibration process.

The in-situ load system (ILS) provides the ground-testing community with a comprehensive tool that permits system-level calibration and validation of force measurement systems in a test-like environment. It was developed to improve testing accuracy, repeatability, time in tunnel, and many aspects of the calibration process. The key innovations are that ILS enables a system calibration (rather than independent subsystem and component calibrations) by using the one-force-vector calibration approach and a statistically defensible estimate total force measurement uncertainty. ILS may be applied in any wind tunnel facility, private or government.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Test & Measurement, Calibration, Test equipment and instrumentation, Wind tunnel tests, Aerodynamics

Method of Creating Micro-Scale Silver Telluride Grains Covered with Bismuth Nanoparticles

Potential applications include power generation and waste heat recovery, and refrigeration and cooling.

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a novel thermoelectric (TE) material utilizing micro-scale silver telluride grains covered with bismuth nanoparticles. These materials have unique advantages in directly converting any level of thermal energy into electrical power and solid-state cooling by a reverse mode. Although thermoelectric devices are regarded advantageously with their high reliability, their lack of moving parts, and their ability to scale to any sizes, the devices’ energy conversion efficiency remains generally poor.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Electric power, Thermodynamics, Materials properties, Nanomaterials

Photo-Acoustic Chemical Detector

This technology could be used for the detection of explosives and hazardous or toxic chemicals.

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a photo-acoustic sensing-based laser vibrometer for the measurement of ambient chemical species. The technology allows for detection of sub-part-per-billion (ppb) levels of ambient trace gases and chemical species, with an order of magnitude more sensitivity than similar technologies. Among other applications, the technology could be used for the detection of explosives and hazardous or toxic chemicals.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Instrumentation, Test & Measurement, Lasers, Chemicals, Vibration, Hazardous materials, Test equipment and instrumentation

Open Mission Control Technologies (Open MCT) Web

The fundamental idea behind the Mission Control Technologies (MCT) project is to build software from pieces that can be assembled by end users to create integrated visualizations. Applications are eliminated in favor of compositions of live data objects that can be combined in different ways for different users and missions as required, in contrast to the more traditional software development method of pre-determining functionality and building a monolithic application. This new approach has the potential to change how users design, deploy, and maintain mission system software.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Design processes, Computer software and hardware, Imaging and visualization

Human Factors Analysis Support Tool (H-FAST) v 2.0

Large-scale systems engineering projects involve multiple teams of engineers working in parallel. These projects typically include numerous human factors challenges, many of which first become evident during the integration stage. Human factors evaluations are essential in gathering human performance data and analyzing the usability of new design concepts. These evaluations are generally carried out by human factors experts due to the level of expertise required. However, many projects may not have a dedicated human factors expert available for consultation throughout all design phases. In these cases, non-human-factors engineers could derive value from a tool that locates relevant human factors design resources, and guides them through conducting simpler, formative human factors evaluations to gather feedback earlier in the process. The challenge for the design engineer is in finding the appropriate human factors design guidance relevant to a specific project.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Finite element analysis, Human factors, Systems engineering

RAYGUN Fast Generic Geometry Raycasting Tool

When performing spacecraft simulations, developers sometimes need to feed the simulation with a distance between two objects along a certain direction vector. For example, if a spacecraft is approaching an asteroid and needs to simulate a laser rangefinder, the simulation would need to detect what part of the asteroid the laser would intersect, and then calculate the distance from the rangefinder to the surface. For an asteroid with a very complex geometry, the search for the intersecting triangle can be very costly in terms of compute time. This scenario presented itself with the MMSEV spacecraft simulation approaching the asteroid “Itokawa.”

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Computer simulation, Mathematical models, Spacecraft

Ultra-High-Speed Fiber Optic Sensor Detects Structural Damage in Real Time

A research group including members from Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science has developed a real-time, fiber-optic, distributed sensing system for strain and temperature. The system requires light injection from only one end of the fiber, and can achieve a sampling rate of 100 kHz, an improvement of more than 5,000 times the conventional rate.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Body structures, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Diagnostics

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