Tech Briefs

Current Pulses Momentarily Enhance Thermoelectric Cooling

Transient cooling could be attractive for some semiconductor devices. The rates of cooling afforded by thermoelectric (Peltier) devices can be increased for short times by applying pulses of electric current greater than the currents that yield maximum steady-state cooling. It has been proposed to utilize such momentary enhancements of cooling in applications in which diode lasers and other semiconductor devices are required to operate for times of the order of milliseconds at temperatures too low to be easily obtainable in the steady state. In a typical contemplated application, a semiconductor device would be in contact with the final (coldest) somewhat taller stage of a multistage thermoelectric cooler. Steady current would be applied to the stages to produce steady cooling. Pulsed current would then be applied, enhancing the cooling of the top stage momentarily.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

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Improved Cryostat for Cooling a Wide Panel

Less technician time and lower consumption of helium translate to lower cost.An improved cryostat has been developed for cooling a wide panel evenly over its surface to a temperature of -423 °F (-253 °C) by use of liquid helium. Originally, the cryostat was to be used in measuring apparent strains in wide aluminum/ lithium panels as functions of temperature in order to develop data for temperature compensation of the readings of strain gauges on a tank containing liquid hydrogen. Relative to the cryostat used previously for this purpose, the improved cryostat can be prepared for a test in less time, and it loses less helium during each test.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences

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Making the Monte Carlo Approach Easier and Faster

Libraries of random number generators can make implementing Monte Carlo simulations easier. Originally introduced by Nicholas Metropolis during the Manhattan Project, Monte Carlo methods today have very broad and extensive use in various areas of science and technology. Random number generators (RNGs) are a core part of any Monte Carlo method, having a significant impact on the overall quality and performance of Monte Carlo simulations. Libraries of RNGs can make implementing Monte Carlo simulations much easier and faster. The most important role of high-performance libraries is to provide facilities that can make writing programs simpler, substantially speed up development, and improve program efficiency in terms of performance.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences

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Higher-Order Finite Elements for Computing Thermal Radiation

Computationally efficient methods yield close approximations of exact solutions. Two variants of the finite-element method have been developed for use in computational simulations of radiative transfers of heat among diffuse gray surfaces. Both variants involve the use of higher-order finite elements, across which temperatures and radiative quantities are assumed to vary according to certain approximations. In this and other applications, higherorder finite elements are used to increase (relative to classical finite elements, which are assumed to be isothermal) the accuracies of final numerical results without having to refine computational meshes excessively and thereby incur excessive computation times.One of the variants is termed the radiation sub-element (RSE) method, which, itself, is subject to a number of variations. This is the simplest and most straightforward approach to representation of spatially variable surface radiation. Any computer code that, heretofore, could model surface-to-surface radiation can incorporate the RSE method without major modifications.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Automation of Design Engineering Processes

A method facilitates ISO 9001 compliance and eliminates voluminous, difficult-to-manage paper files. A method, and a computer program that helps to implement the method, have been developed to automate and systematize the retention and retrieval of all the written records generated during the process of designing a complex engineering system. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that “all the written records” as used here is meant to be taken literally: it signifies not only final drawings and final engineering calculations but also such ancillary documents as minutes of meetings, memoranda, requests for design changes, approval and review documents, and reports of tests. One important purpose served by the method is to make the records readily available to all involved users via their computer workstations from one computer archive while eliminating the need for voluminous paper files stored in different places. Another important purpose served by the method is to facilitate the work of engineers who are charged with sustaining the system and were not involved in the original design decisions. The method helps the sustaining engineers to retrieve information that enables them to retrace the reasoning that led to the original design decisions, thereby helping them to understand the system better and to make informed engineering choices pertaining to maintenance and/or modifications of the system. The software used to implement the method is written in Microsoft Access. All of the documents pertaining to the design of a given system are stored in one relational database in such a manner that they can be related to each other via a single tracking number. In addition to improving the management of records of the design process, the method can be utilized to improve the design process itself in a number of ways that include the following:

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Curing Composite Materials Using Lower-Energy Electron Beams

Less shielding is needed at lower beam energies. In an improved method of fabricating composite-material structures by laying up prepreg tapes (tapes of fiber reinforcement impregnated by uncured matrix materials) and then curing them, one cures the layups by use of beams of electrons having kinetic energies in the range of 200 to 300 keV. In contrast, in a prior method, one used electron beams characterized by kinetic energies up to 20 MeV. The improved method was first suggested by an Italian group in 1993, but had not been demonstrated until recently.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials

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Aluminum-Alloy-Matrix/Alumina-Reinforcement Composites

Relatively inexpensive, lightweight composite parts could be substitutes for some superalloy parts. Isotropic composites of aluminumalloy matrices reinforced with particulate alumina have been developed as lightweight, high-specific-strength, essexpensive alternatives to nickel-base and ferrous superalloys. These composites feature a specific gravity of about 3.45 g/cm3 and specific strengths of about 200 MPa/(g/cm3). The room-temperature tensile strength is 100 ksi (689 MPa) and stiffness is 30 Msi (206 GPa). At 500 °F (260 °C), these composites have shown 80 percent retention in strength and 95 percent retention in stiffness. These materials also have excellent fatigue tolerance and tribological properties. They can be fabricated in net (or nearly net) sizes and shapes to make housings, pistons, valves, and ducts in turbomachinery, and to make structural components of such diverse systems as diesel engines, automotive brake systems, and power-generation, mining, and oil-drilling equipment. Separately,incorporation of these metal matrix composites within aluminum gravity castings for localized reinforcement has been demonstrated.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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