Tech Briefs

Scaling of Two-Phase Flows to Partial-Earth Gravity

A report presents a method of scaling, to partial-Earth gravity, of parameters that describe pressure drops and other characteristics of two-phase (liquid/ vapor) flows. The development of the method was prompted by the need for a means of designing two-phase flow systems to operate on the Moon and on Mars, using fluid- properties and flow data from terrestrial two-phase-flow experiments, thus eliminating the need for partial-gravity testing. The report presents an explicit procedure for designing an Earth-based test bed that can provide hydrodynamic similarity with two-phase fluids flowing in partial-gravity systems. The procedure does not require prior knowledge of the flow regime (i.e., the spatial orientation of the phases). The method also provides for determination of pressure drops in two-phase partial-gravity flows by use of a generalization of the classical Moody chart (previously applicable to single-phase flow only). The report presents experimental data from Mars- and Moon-activity experiments that appear to demonstrate the validity of this method.

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Swarms of Micron-Sized Sensors

A paper presents the concept of swarms of micron-sized and smaller carriers of sensing equipment, denoted generally as controllable granular matter, to be used in exploring remote planets and interplanetary space. The design and manufacture of controllable granular matter would exploit advances in microelectromechanical systems and nanotechnology. Depending on specific designs and applications, controllable granular matter could have characteristics like those of powders, sands, or aerosols, which would be dispersed into the environments to be explored: For example, sensory grains could be released into orbit around a planet, spread out over ground, or dispersed into wind or into a body of liquid. The grains would thus become integral parts of multiphase environments, where they would function individually and/or collectively to gather information about the environments. In cases of clouds of grains dispersed in outer space, it may be feasible to use laser beams to shape the clouds to perform specific functions. To enable the full utilization of controllable granular matter, it is necessary to advance the knowledge of the dynamics and controllable characteristics of both individual grains and the powders, sands, or aerosols of which they are parts.

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Three-Dimensional Venturi Sensor for Measuring Extreme Winds

Advantageous features include ruggedness, rapid response, and high dynamic range. A three-dimensional (3D) Venturi sensor is being developed as a compact, rugged means of measuring wind vectors having magnitudes of as much as 300 mph (134 m/s). This sensor also incorporates auxiliary sensors for measuring temperature from -40 to +120 °F (-40 to +49 °C), relative humidity from 0 to 100 percent, and atmospheric pressure from 846 to 1,084 millibar (85 to 108 kPa).

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Oxygen-Partial-Pressure Sensor for Aircraft Oxygen Mask

Vibration of the mask against the wearer's nose warns of low oxygen pressure. A device that generates an alarm when the partial pressure of oxygen decreases to less than a preset level has been developed to help prevent hypoxia in a pilot or other crewmember of a military or other high-performance aircraft. Loss of oxygen partial pressure can be caused by poor fit of the mask or failure of a hose or other component of an oxygen-distribution system. The deleterious physical and mental effects of hypoxia cause the loss of a military aircraft and crew every few years.

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Software for Managing Parametric Studies

The Information Power Grid Virtual Laboratory (ILab) is a Practical Extraction and Reporting Language (PERL) graphical-user-interface computer program that generates shell scripts to facilitate parametric studies performed on the Grid. (“The Grid” denotes a worldwide network of supercomputers used for scientific and engineering computations involving data sets too large to fit on desktop computers.) Heretofore, parametric studies on the Grid have been impeded by the need to create control language scripts and edit input data files — painstaking tasks that are necessary for managing multiple jobs on multiple computers. ILab reflects an object-oriented approach to automation of these tasks: All data and operations are organized into packages in order to accelerate development and debugging. A “container” or “document” object in ILab, called an “experiment,” contains all the information (data and file paths) necessary to define a complex series of repeated, sequenced, and/or branching processes. For convenience and to enable reuse, this object is serialized to and from disk storage. At run time, the current ILab experiment is used to generate required input files and shell scripts, create directories, copy data files, and then both initiate and monitor the execution of all computational processes.

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Software Aids Visualization of Computed Unsteady Flow

Unsteady Flow Analysis Toolkit (UFAT) is a computer program that synthesizes motions of time-dependent flows represented by very large sets of data generated in computational fluid dynamics simulations. Prior to the development of UFAT, it was necessary to rely on static, single-snapshot depictions of time-dependent flows generated by flow-visualization software designed for steady flows. Whereas it typically takes weeks to analyze the results of a largescale unsteady-flow simulation by use of steady-flow visualization software, the analysis time is reduced to hours when UFAT is used. UFAT can be used to generate graphical objects of flow visualization results using multi-block curvilinear grids in the format of a previously developed NASA data-visualization program, PLOT3D. These graphical objects can be rendered using FAST, another popular flow visualization software developed at NASA. Flow-visualization techniques that can be exploited by use of UFAT include time-dependent tracking of particles, detection of vortex cores, extractions of stream ribbons and surfaces, and tetrahedral decomposition for optimal particle tracking. Unique computational features of UFAT include capabilities for automatic (batch) processing, restart, memory mapping, and parallel processing. These capabilities significantly reduce analysis time and storage requirements, relative to those of prior flow-visualization software. UFAT can be executed on a variety of supercomputers.

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Software for Testing Electroactive Structural Components

A computer program generates a graphical user interface that, in combination with its other features, facilitates the acquisition and preprocessing of experimental data on the strain response, hysteresis, and power consumption of a multilayer composite-material structural component containing one or more built-in sensor(s) and/or actuator(s) based on piezoelectric materials. This program runs in conjunction with Lab- VIEW software in a computer-controlled instrumentation system. For a test, a specimen is instrumented with appliedvoltage and current sensors and with strain gauges. Once the computational connection to the test setup has been made via the LabVIEW software, this program causes the test instrumentation to step through specified configurations. If the user is satisfied with the test results as displayed by the software, the user activates an icon on a front-panel display, causing the raw current, voltage, and strain data to be digitized and saved. The data are also put into a spreadsheet and can be plotted on a graph. Graphical displays are saved in an image file for future reference. The program also computes and displays the power and the phase angle between voltage and current.

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