Tech Briefs

Nuclear Reactor Cooling Valve Design Optimized With FEA

Finite element analysis simulated the valve’s condition following an earthquake.

Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd., a subcontractor of Societatea Nationala Nucleoelectrica S.A. (SNN) of Romania, contracted Badger Meter to model, test, and produce a set of precision valves for Cernavoda Unit 2, the second nuclear power plant in Cernavoda, Romania. The main concern for the construction and operation of the valves was their survivability and continued functioning after enduring an earthquake. In nuclear power plants, such valves control the cooling of the nuclear reactors where continued flow of water around the nuclear core is essential for safety. After the earthquake that precipitated the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in 1980, testing criteria for valves routinely has included their capability to ensure the safe functioning of the reactor after seismic events, at least in terms of cooling capacity.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Finite element analysis, Water, Nuclear energy, Cooling, Valves

Pulse-Flow Microencapsulation System

Microcapsules are produced continuously under controlled, sterile conditions.

The pulse-flow microencapsulation system (PFMS) is an automated system that continuously produces a stream of liquid-filled microcapsules for delivery of therapeutic agents to target tissues. Prior microencapsulation systems have relied on batch processes that involve transfer of batches between different apparatuses for different stages of production followed by sampling for acquisition of quality-control data, including measurements of size. In contrast, the PFMS is a single, microprocessor- controlled system that performs all processing steps, including acquisition of quality-control data. The quality-control data can be used as real-time feedback to ensure the production of large quantities of uniform microcapsules.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Medical equipment and supplies, Production, Pharmaceuticals, Quality control

Automated Low-Gravitation Facility Would Make Optical Fibers

A report describes a proposed automated facility that would be operated in outer space to produce high-quality optical fibers from fluoride-based glasses, free of light-scattering crystallites that form during production in normal Earth gravitation. Before launch, glass preforms would be loaded into a mechanism that would later dispense them. A dispensed preform would be melted, cooled to its glass-transition temperature rapidly enough to prevent crystallization, cooled to ambient temperature, then pushed into a preform tip heater, wherein it would be reheated to the softening temperature. A robotic manipulator would touch a fused-silica rod to the softened glass to initiate pulling of a fiber. The robot would pull the fiber to an attachment on a take-up spool, which would thereafter be turned to pull the fiber. The diameter of the fiber would depend on the pulling speed and the viscosity of the glass at the preform tip. Upon depletion of a preform, the robot would place the filled spool in storage and position an empty spool to pull a fiber from a new preform. Pulling would be remotely monitored by a video camera and restarted by remote command if a break in the fiber were observed.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Fiber optics, Fabrication, Manufacturing equipment and machinery, Robotics, Glass, Spacecraft

Surface Acoustic Wave Sensor for Viscosity Measurement

Acoustic wave solid-state viscometers can be integrated into in-line, real-time monitoring and process control systems.

Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a liquid to flow, and is an important measurement requirement in industrial process control and OEM applications. Viscosity describes the retarding force that is proportional to the rate of deformation. This so-called shear rate has units of s-1 and describes the crossstream gradient of the flow speed.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Measurements, Sensors and actuators, Drag

Alignment Cube With One Diffractive Face

Only one theodolite is needed instead of two.

An enhanced alignment cube has been invented for use in a confined setting (e.g., a cryogenic chamber) in which optical access may be limited to a single line of sight. Whereas traditional alignment-cube practice entails the use of two theodolites aimed along two lines of sight, the enhanced alignment cube yields complete alignment information through use of a single theodolite aimed along a single line of sight.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Optics, Test equipment and instrumentation

Graphite Composite Booms With Integral Hinges

A document discusses lightweight instrument booms under development for use aboard spacecraft. A boom of this type comprises a thin-walled graphite-fiber/matrix composite tube with an integral hinge that can be bent for stowage and later allowed to spring back to straighten the boom for deployment in outer space. The boom design takes advantage of both the stiffness of the composite in tubular geometry and the flexibility of thin sections of the composite. The hinge is formed by machining windows in the tube at diametrically opposite locations so that there remain two opposing cylindrical strips resembling measuring tapes. Essential to the design is a proprietary composite layup that renders the hinge tough yet flexible enough to be bendable as much as 90° in either of two opposite directions. When the boom is released for deployment, the torque exerted by the bent hinge suffices to overcome parasitic resistance from harnesses and other equipment, so that the two sections of the hinge snap to a straight, rigid condition in the same manner as that of measuring tapes. Issues addressed in development thus far include selection of materials, out-of-plane bending, edge cracking, and separation of plies.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Composite materials, Graphite, Lightweight materials, Materials properties, Spacecraft

Tool for Sampling Permafrost on a Remote Planet

A report discusses the robotic arm tool for rapidly acquiring permafrost (RATRAP), which is being developed for acquiring samples of permafrost on Mars or another remote planet and immediately delivering the samples to adjacent instruments for analysis. The prototype RATRAP includes a rasp that protrudes through a hole in the bottom of a container that is placed in contact with the permafrost surface. Moving at high speed, the rasp cuts into the surface and loads many of the resulting small particles of permafrost through the hole into the container. The prototype RATRAP has been shown to be capable of acquiring many grams of permafrost simulants in times of the order of seconds. In contrast, a current permafrost-sampling system that the RATRAP is intended to supplant works by scraping with tines followed by picking up the scrapings in a scoop, sometimes taking hours to acquire a few grams. Also, because the RATRAP inherently pulverizes the sampled material, it is an attractive alternative to other sampling apparatuses that generate core or chunk samples that must be further processed by a crushing apparatus to make the sample particles small enough for analysis by some instruments.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Soils, Containers, Cutting, Robotics, Test equipment and instrumentation

Special Semaphore Scheme for UHF Spacecraft Communications

A semaphore scheme has been devised to satisfy a requirement to enable ultrahigh- frequency (UHF) radio communication between a spacecraft descending from orbit to a landing on Mars and a spacecraft, in orbit about Mars, that relays communications between Earth and the lander spacecraft. There are also two subsidiary requirements: (1) to use UHF transceivers, built and qualified for operation aboard the spacecraft that operate with residual-carrier binary phase-shift-keying (BPSK) modulation at a selectable data rate of 8, 32, 128, or 256 kb/s; and (2) to enable low-rate signaling even when received signals become so weak as to prevent communication at the minimum BPSK rate of 8 kHz. The scheme involves exploitation of Manchester encoding, which is used in conjunction with residual-carrier modulation to aid the carrier-tracking loop. By choosing various sequences of 1s, 0s, or 1s alternating with 0s to be fed to the residual- carrier modulator, one would cause the modulator to generate sidebands at a fundamental frequency of 4 or 8 kHz and harmonics thereof. These sidebands would constitute the desired semaphores. In reception, the semaphores would be detected by a software demodulator.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences, Radio equipment, Telecommunications systems, Spacecraft

Simulator for Testing Spacecraft Separation Devices

A report describes the main features of a system for testing pyrotechnic and mechanical devices used to separate spacecraft and modules of spacecraft during flight. The system includes a spacecraft simulator [also denoted a large mobility base (LMB)] equipped with air thrusters, sensors, and data-acquisition equipment. The spacecraft simulator floats on air bearings over an epoxy-covered concrete floor. This free-flotation arrangement enables simulation of motion in outer space in three degrees of freedom: translation along two orthogonal horizontal axes and rotation about a vertical axis. The system also includes a static stand. In one application, the system was used to test a boltretraction system (BRS) intended for separation of the lifting-body and deorbitpropulsion stages of the X-38 spacecraft. The LMB was connected via the BRS to the static stand, then pyrotechnic devices that actuate the BRS were fired. The separation distance and acceleration were measured. The report cites a document, not yet published at the time of reporting the information for this article, that is said to present additional detailed information.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Finite element analysis, Scale models, Test equipment and instrumentation, Spacecraft

Apparatus for Hot Impact Testing of Material Specimens

It is not necessary to cool and reheat the furnace between tests.

An apparatus for positioning and holding material specimens is a major subsystem of a system for impact testing of the specimens at temperatures up to 1,500 °C. This apparatus and the rest of the system are designed especially for hot impact testing of advanced ceramics, composites, and coating materials.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Test & Measurement, Ceramics, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Composite materials, Impact tests, Test equipment and instrumentation

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