Tech Briefs

A Resonator for Low-Threshold Frequency Conversion

A nonlinear dielectric whispering-gallery resonator would be poled for quasiphase-matching. A proposed toroidal or disklike dielectric optical resonator (dielectric optical cavity) would be made of an optically nonlinear material and would be optimized for use in parametric frequency conversion by imposition of a spatially periodic permanent electric polarization. The poling (see figure) would suppress dispersions caused by both the material and the geometry of the optical cavity, thereby effecting quasi-matching of the phases of high-resonance-quality (high-Q) whispering-gallery electromagnetic modes. The quasi-phase-matching of the modes would serve to maximize the interactions among them. Such a resonator might be a prototype of a family of compact, efficient nonlinear devices for operation over a broad range of optical wavelengths.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Helicity in Supercritical O2/H2 and C7H16/N2 Mixing Layers

This report describes a study of databases produced by direct numerical simulation of mixing layers developing between opposing flows of two fluids under supercritical conditions, the purpose of the study being to elucidate chemical species-specific aspects of turbulence, with emphasis on helicity. The simulations were performed for two different fluid pairs — O2/H2 and C7H16/N2 — at similar values of reduced pressure.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Alternative Attitude Commanding and Control for Precise Spacecraft Landing

A report proposes an alternative method of control for precision landing on a remote planet. In the traditional method, the attitude of a spacecraft is required to track a commanded translational acceleration vector, which is generated at each time step by solving a two-point boundary value problem. No requirement of continuity is imposed on the acceleration. The translational acceleration does not necessarily vary smoothly. Tracking of a nonsmooth acceleration causes the vehicle attitude to exhibit undesirable transients and poor pointing stability behavior. In the alternative method, the two-point boundary value problem is not solved at each time step. A smooth reference position profile is computed. The profile is recomputed only when the control errors get sufficiently large. The nominal attitude is still required to track the smooth reference acceleration command. A steering logic is proposed that controls the position and velocity errors about the reference profile by perturbing the attitude slightly about the nominal attitude. The overall pointing behavior is therefore smooth, greatly reducing the degree of pointing instability.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP

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Nanocarpets for Trapping Microscopic Particles

Properties of nanocarpets can be tailored for selective trapping. Nanocarpets — that is, carpets of carbon nanotubes — are undergoing development as means of trapping microscopic particles for scientific analysis. Examples of such particles include inorganic particles, pollen, bacteria, and spores. Nanocarpets can be characterized as scaled-down versions of ordinary macroscopic floor carpets, which trap dust and other particulate matter, albeit not purposefully. Nanocarpets can also be characterized as mimicking both the structure and the particle-trapping behavior of ciliated lung epithelia, the carbon nanotubes being analogous to cilia (see figure).

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Precious-Metal Salt Coatings for Detecting Hydrazines

Colors change upon exposure to hydrazines and perhaps other hazardous gases. Substrates coated with a precious metal salt KAuCl4 have been found to be useful for detecting hydrazine vapors in air at and above a concentration of the order of 0.01 parts per million (ppm). Upon exposure to air containing a sufficient amount of hydrazine for a sufficient time, the coating material undergoes a visible change in color. Although the color change is only a qualitative indication, it can serve as an alarm of a hazardous concentration of hydrazine or as advice of the need for a quantitative measurement of concentration. Detection of hydrazine vapors by this technique costs much less and takes less time than does laboratory analysis of sorbent tubes using high-performance liquid chromatography, which is the technique used heretofore to detect hydrazines at concentrations down to 0.01 ppm.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Amplifying Electrochemical Indicators

Reporter compounds can be formulated for high sensitivity and miniaturization of sensor units. Dendrimeric reporter compounds have been invented for use in sensing and amplifying electrochemical signals from molecular recognition events that involve many chemical and biological entities. These reporter compounds can be formulated to target specific molecules or molecular recognition events. They can also be formulated to be, variously, hydrophilic or amphiphilic so that they are suitable for use at interfaces between (1) aqueous solutions and (2) electrodes connected to external signal-processing electronic circuits. The invention of these reporter compounds is expected to enable the development of highly miniaturized, low-power-consumption, relatively inexpensive, mass-producible sensor units for diverse applications, including diagnoses of infectious and genetic diseases, testing for environmental bacterial contamination, forensic investigations, and detection of biological warfare agents.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Better End-Cap Processing for Oxidation-Resistant Polyimides

Cross-linking in an inert atmosphere (as opposed to air) yields better results. A class of end-cap compounds that increase the thermo-oxidative stability of polyimides of the polymerization of monomeric reactants (PMR) type has been extended. In addition, an improved processing protocol for this class of endcap compounds has been invented. The class of end-cap compounds was described in “End Caps for More Thermo-Oxidative Stability in Polyimides” (LEW-17012), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 10 (October 2001), page 32. To recapitulate: PMR polyimides are often used as matrix resins of high-temperature- resistant composite materials. These end-cap compounds are intended to supplant the norbornene end cap (NE) compound that, heretofore, has served to limit molecular weights during oligomerization and, at high temperatures, to form cross-links that become parts of stable network molecular structures. NE has been important to processability of high-temperature resins because (1) in limiting molecular weights, it enables resins to flow more readily for processing and (2) it does not give off volatile byproducts during final cure and, therefore, enables the production of voidfree composite parts. However, with respect to ability of addition polymers to resist oxidation at high temperature, NE has been a “weak link.” Consequently, for example, in order to enable norbornene-end-capped polyimide matrices to last for lifetimes up to 1,000 hours, it is necessary to limit their use temperatures to =315 °C.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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