Tech Briefs

Time-Resolved Measurements in Optoelectronic Microbioanalysis

A report presents discussion of time-resolved measurements in optoelectronic microbioanalysis. Proposed microbioanalytical "laboratory-on-a-chip" devices for detection of microbes and toxic chemicals would include optoelectronic sensors and associated electronic circuits that would look for fluorescence or phosphorescence signatures of multiple hazardous biomolecules in order to detect which ones were present in a given situation. The emphasis in the instant report is on gating an active-pixel sensor in the time domain, instead of filtering light in the wavelength domain, to prevent the sensor from responding to a laser pulse used to excite fluorescence or phosphorescence while enabling the sensor to respond to the decaying fluorescence or phosphorescence signal that follows the laser pulse. The active-pixel sensor would be turned on after the laser pulse and would be used to either integrate the fluorescence or phosphorescence signal over several lifetimes and many excitation pulses or else take time-resolved measurements of the fluorescence or phosphorescence. The report also discusses issues of multiplexing and of using time-resolved measurements of fluorophores with known different fluorescence lifetimes to distinguish among them.

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Block Copolymers as Templates for Arrays of Carbon Nanotubes

The spontaneous formation of nanostructures in block copolymers would be exploited. A method of manufacturing regular arrays of precisely sized, shaped, positioned, and oriented carbon nanotubes has been proposed. Arrays of carbon nanotubes could prove useful in such diverse applications as communications (especially for filtering of signals), biotechnology (for sequencing of DNA and separation of chemicals), and micro- and nanoelectronics (as field emitters and as signal transducers and processors). The method is expected to be suitable for implementation in standard semiconductor-device fabrication facilities.

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Collaborative Software Development Approach Used To Deliver the New Shuttle Telemetry Ground Station

This software affords enhanced capabilities for utilizing telemetric data. United Space Alliance (USA) developed and used a new software development method to meet technical, schedule, and budget challenges faced during the development and delivery of the new Shuttle Telemetry Ground Station at Kennedy Space Center. This method, called Collaborative Software Development, enabled KSC to effectively leverage industrial software and build additional capabilities to meet shuttle system and operational requirements. Application of this method resulted in reduced time to market, reduced development cost, improved product quality, and improved programmer competence while developing technologies of benefit to a small company in California (AP Labs Inc.). Many modifications were made to the baseline software product (VMEwindow), which improved its quality and functionality. In addition, six new software capabilities were developed, which are the subject of this article and add useful functionality to the VMEwindow environment. These new software programs are written in C or VXWorks and are used in conjunction with other ground station software packages, such as VMEwindow, Matlab, Dataviews, and PVWave.

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Reliability and Design Considerations for Long Life Using Mica Capacitors in High-Voltage Apps

Over the last 40 years, a series of misconceptions regarding mica capacitor applications has led novice users to consistently over- derate wound or rolled mica/ epoxy dielectric capacitors. Mica, K2A13(Si04)3, a complex aluminum silicate in dielectric form, has been successfully used for many years as an integral part of high- voltage (2KVDC to 50KVDC) capacitor manufacturing — particularly in the 50pF to 5μF value range. Mica has unrivaled physical and electrical properties in comparison to other capacitor dielectrics, especially ceramic. Mica is extremely stable. Capacitance will change only -2% at -54°C and to +3% at +125°C. Mica is an excellent insulator, and is resistant to high temperature, thermal shock, mechanical shock, and vibration.

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Folded Resonant Horns for Power Ultrasonic Applications

Ultrasonic actuators can be made shorter.    Figure 1. Three Similar Power Ultrasonic Actuators are depicted partly in cross sections to illustrate a progression of designs from a straight stepped horn to a folded inverted stepped horn. Folded horns have been conceived as alternatives to straight horns used as resonators and strain amplifiers in power ultrasonic systems. Such systems are used for cleaning, welding, soldering, cutting, and drilling in a variety of industries. In addition, several previous NASA Tech Briefs articles have described instrumented drilling, coring, and burrowing machines that utilize combinations of sonic and ultrasonic vibrational actuation. The main advantage of a folded horn, relative to a straight horn of the same resonance frequency, is that the folded horn can be made shorter (that is, its greatest linear dimension measured from the outside can be made smaller). Alternatively, for a given length, the resonance frequency can be reduced. Hence, the folded-horn concept affords an additional degree of design freedom for reducing the length of an ultrasonic power system that includes a horn.

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Rollable Thin Shell Composite-Material Paraboloidal Mirrors

These lightweight focusing mirrors can be stored in fairly narrow cylinders. An experiment and calculation have demonstrated the feasibility of a technique of compact storage of paraboloidal mirrors made of thin composite-material (multiple layers of carbon fiber mats in a polymeric matrix) shells coated with metal for reflectivity. Such mirrors are under consideration as simple, lightweight alternatives to the heavier, more complex mirrors now used in space telescopes. They could also be used on Earth in applications in which gravitational sag of the thin shells can be tolerated.

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Cellular Pressure-Actuated Joint

Pockets in one of the sealing members would help maintain differential pressure. A modification of a pressure-actuated joint has been proposed to improve its pressure actuation in such a manner as to reduce the potential for leakage of the pressurizing fluid. The specific joint for which the modification is proposed is a field joint in a reusable solid-fuel rocket motor (RSRM), in which the pressurizing fluid is a mixture of hot combustion gases. The proposed modification could also be applicable to other pressure- actuated joints of similar configuration.

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