Tech Briefs

Selected Papers on Protoplanetary Disks

Three papers present studies of thermal balances, dynamics, and electromagnetic spectra of protoplanetary disks, which comprise gas and dust orbiting young stars. One paper addresses the reprocessing, in a disk, of photons that originate in the disk itself in addition to photons that originate in the stellar object at the center. The shape of the disk is found to strongly affect the redistribution of energy. Another of the three papers reviews an increase in the optical luminosity of the young star FU Orionis. The increase began in the year 1936 and similar increases have since been observed in other stars. The paper summarizes astronomical, meteoric, and theoretical evidence that these increases are caused by increases in mass fluxes through the inner portions of the protoplanetary disks of these stars. The remaining paper presents a mathematical-modeling study of the structures of protostellar accretion disks, with emphasis on limits on disk flaring. Among the conclusions reached in the study are that (1) the radius at which a disk becomes shadowed from its central stellar object depends on radial mass flow and (2) most planet formation has occurred in environments unheated by stellar radiation.

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Part 1 of a Computational Study of a Drop-Laden Mixing Layer

This first of three reports on a computational study of a drop-laden temporal mixing layer presents the results of direct numerical simulations (DNS) of well-resolved flow fields and the derivation of the large-eddy simulation (LES) equations that would govern the larger scales of a turbulent flow field. The mixing layer consisted of two counterflowing gas streams, one of which was initially laden with evaporating liquid drops. The gas phase was composed of two perfect gas species, the carrier gas and the vapor emanating from the drops, and was computed in an Eulerian reference frame, whereas each drop was tracked individually in a Lagrangian manner. The flow perturbations that were initially imposed on the layer caused mixing and eventual transition to turbulence. The DNS database obtained included transitional states for layers with various liquid mass loadings. For the DNS, the gas-phase equations were the compressible Navier-Stokes equations for conservation of momentum and additional conservation equations for total energy and species mass. These equations included source terms representing the effect of the drops on the mass, momentum, and energy of the gas phase. From the DNS equations, the expression for the irreversible entropy production (dissipation) was derived and used to determine the dissipation due to the source terms. The LES equations were derived by spatially filtering the DNS set and the magnitudes of the terms were computed at transitional states, leading to a hierarchy of terms to guide simplification of the LES equations. It was concluded that effort should be devoted to the accurate modeling of both the subgridscale fluxes and the filtered source terms, which were the dominant unclosed terms appearing in the LES equations.

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Fast Laser Shutters With Low Vibratory Disturbances

Opposing cantilevered piezoelectric bending actuators balance each other to minimize vibration. The figure shows a prototype vacuum-compatible, fast-acting, long-life shutter unit that generates very little vibratory disturbance during switching. This is one of a number of shutters designed to satisfy requirements specific to an experiment, to be performed aboard a spacecraft in flight, in which laser beams must be blocked rapidly and completely, without generating a vibratory disturbance large enough to adversely affect the power and frequency stability of the lasers. Commercial off-the-shelf laboratory shutter units — typically containing electromagnetcoil-driven mechanisms — were found not to satisfy the requirements because they are not vacuum-compatible, their actuators engage in uncompensated motions that generate significant vibrations, and their operational lifetimes are too short. Going beyond the initial outerspace application, the present vacuum compatible, fast-acting, long-life shutter units could also be used in terrestrial settings in which there are requirements for their special characteristics.

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Split-Resonator, Integrated-Post Vibratory Microgyroscope

This design is better suited to mass production. An improved design for a capacitive sensing, rocking-mode vibratory microgyroscope is more amenable to mass production, relative to a prior design. Both the improved design and the prior design call for a central post that is part of a resonator that partly resembles a cloverleaf or a flower. The prior design is such that the post has to be fabricated as a separate piece, then bonded to the rest of the resonator in the correct position and orientation. The improved design provides for fabrication of the post as an integral part of the resonator and, in so doing, makes it possible to produce a waferful of microgyroscopes, without need to fabricate, position, and attach posts.

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Blended Buffet-Load-Alleviation System for Fighter Airplane

Reductions in buffet loads translate to longer fatigue lives. The capability of modern fighter airplanes to sustain flight at high angles of attack and/or moderate angles of sideslip often results in immersion of part of such an airplane in unsteady, separated, vortical flow emanating from its forebody or wings. The flows from these surfaces become turbulent and separated during flight under these conditions. These flows contain significant levels of energy over a frequency band coincident with that of low-order structural vibration modes of wings, fins, and control surfaces. The unsteady pressures applied to these lifting surfaces as a result of the turbulent flows are commonly denoted buffet loads, and the resulting vibrations of the affected structures are known as buffeting. Prolonged exposure to buffet loads has resulted in fatigue of structures on several airplanes. Damage to airplanes caused by buffeting has led to redesigns of airplane structures and increased support costs for the United States Air Force and Navy as well as the armed forces of other countries. Time spent inspecting, repairing, and replacing structures adversely affects availability of aircraft for missions.

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Vortobots

Vortex-generating microscopic robots would move in swarms. The term “vortobots” denotes proposed swimming robots that would have dimensions as small as micrometers or even nanometers and that would move in swarms through fluids by generating and exploiting vortices in a cooperative manner. Vortobots were conceived as means of exploring confined or otherwise inaccessible fluid environments: they are expected to be especially attractive for biomedical uses like examining the interiors of blood vessels.

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Ultrasonic/Sonic Jackhammer

Advantages include low noise, low vibration, and low average power demand. An ultrasonic/sonic jackhammer (USJ) is the latest in a series of related devices, the first of which were reported in “Ultrasonic/Sonic Drill/Corers With Integrated Sensors” (NPO-20856), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 1 (January 2003), page 38. Each of these devices cuts into a brittle material by means of hammering and chiseling actions of a tool bit excited with a combination of ultrasonic and sonic vibrations. A small-scale prototype of the USJ has been demonstrated. A fully developed, full-scale version of the USJ would be used for cutting through concrete, rocks, hard asphalt, and other materials to which conventional pneumatic jackhammers are applied, but the USJ would offer several advantages over conventional pneumatic jackhammers, as discussed below.

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