Tech Briefs

Quantitating Iron in Serum Ferritin by Use of ICP-MS

Ferritin associated with inflammation can be distinguished from ferritin associated with hemochromatosis. A laboratory method has been devised to enable measurement of the concentration of iron bound in ferritin from small samples of blood (serum). Derived partly from a prior method that depends on large samples of blood, this method involves the use of an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS).

Posted in: Bio-Medical, Briefs, TSP

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Fabricating Composite-Material Structures Containing SMA Ribbons

Repeatable, predictable structures can be fabricated. An improved method of designing and fabricating laminated composite-material (matrix/fiber) structures containing embedded shape-memory-alloy (SMA) actuators has been devised. Structures made by this method have repeatable, predictable properties, and fabrication processes can readily be automated.

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Optimal Feedback Control of Thermal Networks

A systematic approach to design has been devised. An improved approach to the mathematical modeling of feedback control of thermal networks has been devised. Heretofore software for feedback control of thermal networks has been developed by time-consuming trial-and-error methods that depend on engineers' expertise. In contrast, the present approach is a systematic means of developing algorithms for feedback control that is optimal in the sense that it combines performance with low cost of implementation. An additional advantage of the present approach is that a thermal engineer need not be expert in control theory.

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Designing Facilities for Collaborative Operations

A methodology is emerging from efforts to design a mission operations facility. A methodology for designing operational facilities for collaboration by multiple experts has begun to take shape as an outgrowth of a project to design such facilities for scientific operations of the planned 2003 Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. The methodology could also be applicable to the design of military "situation rooms" and other facilities for terrestrial missions.

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Artifacts for Calibration of Submicron Width Measurements

Dimensional tolerances as small as 1 nm should be possible. Artifacts that are fabricated with the help of molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) are undergoing development for use as dimensional calibration standards with submicron widths. Such standards are needed for calibrating instruments (principally, scanning electron microscopes and scanning probe microscopes) for measuring the widths of features in advanced integrated circuits. Dimensional calibration standards fabricated by an older process that involves lithography and etching of trenches in (110) surfaces of single-crystal silicon are generally reproducible to within dimensional tolerances of about 15 nm. It is anticipated that when the artifacts of the present type are fully developed, their critical dimensions will be reproducible to within 1 nm. These artifacts are expected to find increasing use in the semiconductor-device and integrated-circuit industries as the width tolerances on semiconductor devices shrink to a few nanometers during the next few years.

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Process for Encapsulating Protein Crystals

Crystals can be grown in forms suitable for x-ray diffraction studies. A process for growing protein crystals encapsulated within membranes has been invented. This process begins with the encapsulation of a nearly saturated aqueous protein solution inside semipermeable membranes to form microcapsules. The encapsulation is effected by use of special formulations of a dissolved protein and a surfactant in an aqueous first liquid phase, which is placed into contact with a second, immiscible liquid phase that contains one or more polymers that are insoluble in the first phase. The second phase becomes formed into the semipermeable membranes that surround microglobules of the first phase, thereby forming the microcapsules. Once formed, the microcapsules are then dehydrated osmotically by exposure to a concentrated salt or polymer solution. The dehydration forms supersaturated solutions inside the microcapsules, thereby enabling nucleation and growth of protein crystals inside the microcapsules.

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Mixed Conducting Electrodes for Better AMTEC Cells

These electrodes conduct both electrons and sodium cations. Electrode materials that exhibit mixed conductivity (that is, both electronic and ionic conductivity) have been investigated in a continuing effort to improve the performance of the alkali metal thermal-to-electric converter (AMTEC). These electrode materials are intended primarily for use on the cathode side of the sodium-ion-conducting solid electrolyte of a sodium-based AMTEC cell. They may also prove useful in sodium-sulfur batteries, which are under study for use in electric vehicles.

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