Tech Briefs

Artifacts for Calibration of Submicron Width Measurements

Dimensional tolerances as small as 1 nm should be possible. Artifacts that are fabricated with the help of molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) are undergoing development for use as dimensional calibration standards with submicron widths. Such standards are needed for calibrating instruments (principally, scanning electron microscopes and scanning probe microscopes) for measuring the widths of features in advanced integrated circuits. Dimensional calibration standards fabricated by an older process that involves lithography and etching of trenches in (110) surfaces of single-crystal silicon are generally reproducible to within dimensional tolerances of about 15 nm. It is anticipated that when the artifacts of the present type are fully developed, their critical dimensions will be reproducible to within 1 nm. These artifacts are expected to find increasing use in the semiconductor-device and integrated-circuit industries as the width tolerances on semiconductor devices shrink to a few nanometers during the next few years.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Process for Encapsulating Protein Crystals

Crystals can be grown in forms suitable for x-ray diffraction studies. A process for growing protein crystals encapsulated within membranes has been invented. This process begins with the encapsulation of a nearly saturated aqueous protein solution inside semipermeable membranes to form microcapsules. The encapsulation is effected by use of special formulations of a dissolved protein and a surfactant in an aqueous first liquid phase, which is placed into contact with a second, immiscible liquid phase that contains one or more polymers that are insoluble in the first phase. The second phase becomes formed into the semipermeable membranes that surround microglobules of the first phase, thereby forming the microcapsules. Once formed, the microcapsules are then dehydrated osmotically by exposure to a concentrated salt or polymer solution. The dehydration forms supersaturated solutions inside the microcapsules, thereby enabling nucleation and growth of protein crystals inside the microcapsules.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Mixed Conducting Electrodes for Better AMTEC Cells

These electrodes conduct both electrons and sodium cations. Electrode materials that exhibit mixed conductivity (that is, both electronic and ionic conductivity) have been investigated in a continuing effort to improve the performance of the alkali metal thermal-to-electric converter (AMTEC). These electrode materials are intended primarily for use on the cathode side of the sodium-ion-conducting solid electrolyte of a sodium-based AMTEC cell. They may also prove useful in sodium-sulfur batteries, which are under study for use in electric vehicles.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Mechanical Amplifier for a Piezoelectric Transducer

In addition to multiplication of stroke, the design affords momentum compensation. A mechanical amplifier has been devised to multiply the stroke of a piezoelectric transducer (PZT) intended for use at liquid helium temperatures. Interferometry holds the key to high angular resolution imaging and astrometry in space. Future space missions that will detect planets around other solar systems and perform detailed studies of the evolution of stars and galaxies will use new interferometers that observe at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths. Phase-measurement interferometry is key to many aspects of astronomical interferometry, and PZTs are ideal modulators for most methods of phase measurement, but primarily at visible wavelengths. At far infrared wavelengths of 150 to 300 µm, background noise is a severe problem and all optics must be cooled to about 4 K. Under these conditions, piezos are ill-suited as modulators, because their throw is reduced by as much as a factor of 2, and even a wavelength or two of modulation is beyond their capability. The largest commercially available piezo stacks are about 5 in. (12.7 cm) long and have a throw of about 180 µm at room temperature and only 90 μm at 4 K. It would seem difficult or impossible to use PZTs for phase measurements in the far infrared were it not for the new mechanical amplifier that was designed and built.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Swell Sleeves for Testing Explosive Devices

A device is detonated in a sleeve and the resultant swelling is measured.   A method of testing explosive and pyrotechnic devices involves exploding the devices inside swell sleeves. Swell sleeves have been used previously for measuring forces. In the present method, they are used to obtain quantitative indications of the energy released in explosions of the devices under test.  

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Propulsion Flight-Test Fixture

Subscale engines can be flight-tested early in the development cycle. NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's new Propulsion Flight Test Fixture (PFTF), designed in house, is an airborne engine-testing facility that enables engineers to gather flight data on small experimental engines. Without the PFTF, it would be necessary to obtain such data from traditional wind tunnels, ground test stands, or laboratory test rigs.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>

Subsonic and Supersonic Effects in Bose-Einstein Condensate

A paper presents a theoretical investigation of subsonic and supersonic effects in a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). The BEC is represented by a time-dependent, nonlinear Schroedinger equation that includes terms for an external confining potential term and a weak interatomic repulsive potential proportional to the number density of atoms. From this model are derived Madelung equations, which relate the quantum phase with the number density, and which are used to represent excitations propagating through the BEC. These equations are shown to be analogous to the classical equations of flow of an inviscid, compressible fluid characterized by a speed of sound (g/ρ0)1/2, where g is the coefficient of the repulsive potential and ρ0 is the unperturbed mass density of the BEC. The equations are used to study the effects of a region of perturbation moving through the BEC. The excitations created by a perturbation moving at subsonic speed are found to be described by a Laplace equation and to propagate at infinite speed. For a supersonically moving perturbation, the excitations are found to be described by a wave equation and to propagate at finite speed inside a Mach cone.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

Read More >>