Tech Briefs

Microscale Regenerative Heat Exchanger

Materials and dimensions are chosen to optimize performance at microscale. The device illustrated in Figure 1 is designed primarily for use as a regenerative heat exchanger in a miniature Stirling engine or Stirling-cycle heat pump. A regenerative heat exchanger (sometimes called, simply, a “regenerator” in the Stirling-engine art) is basically a thermal capacitor: Its role in the Stirling cycle is to alternately accept heat from, then deliver heat to, an oscillating flow of a working fluid between compression and expansion volumes, without introducing an excessive pressure drop. These volumes are at different temperatures, and conduction of heat between these volumes is undesirable because it reduces the energy-conversion efficiency of the Stirling cycle. Hence, among the desired characteristics of a regenerative heat exchanger are low pressure drop and low thermal conductivity along the flow axis.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Multimode-Guided-Wave Ultrasonic Scanning of Materials

Two documents discuss a method of characterizing advanced composite materials by use of multimode-guided ultrasonic waves. The method at an earlier stage of development was described in “High-Performance Scanning Acousto-Ultrasonic System” (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 30, No. 3 (March 2006), page 62. To recapitulate: A transmitting transducer excites modulated (e.g., pulsed) ultrasonic waves at one location on a surface of a plate specimen. The waves interact with microstructure and flaws as they propagate through the specimen to a receiving transducer at a different location. The received signal is analyzed to determine the total (multimode) ultrasonic response of the specimen and utilize this response to evaluate microstructure and flaws. The analysis is performed by software that extracts parameters of signals in the time and frequency domains. Scanning is effected by using computer controlled motorized translation stages to position the transducers at specified pairs of locations and repeating the measurement, data-acquisition, and data-analysis processes at the successive locations. The instant documents reiterate the prior description and summarize capabilities of the hardware and software of the method at the present state of development. One document presents results of a scan of a specimen containing a delamination.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Satellite Multiangle Spectropolarimetric Imaging of Aerosols

One instrument would implement a synergistic combination of multispectral, multiangle, and polarimetric techniques. A proposed remote-sensing instrument, to be carried aboard a spacecraft in orbit around the Earth, would gather data on the spatial distribution and radiative characteristics of tropospheric aerosols. These data are needed for better understanding of the natural and anthropogenic origins of aerosols, and of the effects of aerosols on climate and atmospheric chemistry.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Measuring Attitude of a Large, Flexible, Orbiting Structure

A document summarizes a proposed metrology subsystem for precisely measuring the attitude of a large and flexible structure in space.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Interferometric System for Measuring Thickness of Sea Ice

Frequency- and spatial-domain VHF radar interferometry are used. The cryospheric advanced sensor (CAS) is a developmental airborne (and, potentially, spaceborne) radar based instrumentation system for measuring and mapping the thickness of sea ice. A planned future version of the system would also provide data on the thickness of snow covering sea ice. Frequent measurements of the thickness of polar ocean sea ice and its snow cover on a synoptic scale are critical to understanding global climate change and ocean circulation.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Vaporizable Scaffolds for Fabricating Thermoelectric Modules

Thermoelectric legs would be separated by precise gaps. A process for fabricating thermoelectric modules with vacuum gaps separating the thermoelectric legs has been conceived, and the feasibility of some essential parts of the process has been demonstrated. The vacuum gaps are needed to electrically insulate the legs from each other. The process involves the use of scaffolding in the form of sheets of a polymer to temporarily separate the legs by the desired distance, which is typically about 0.5 mm. During a bonding subprocess that would take place in a partial vacuum at an elevated temperature, the polymer would be vaporized, thereby creating the vacuum gaps. If desired, the gaps could later be filled with an aerogel for thermal insulation and to suppress sublimation of thermoelectric material, as described in “Aerogels for Thermal Insulation of Thermoelectric Devices” (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 30, No. 7 (July, 2006), page 50.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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NASA's Aviation Safety and Modeling Project

Capabilities for automated analysis of flight data are under development. The Aviation Safety Monitoring and Modeling (ASMM) Project of NASA’s Aviation Safety program is cultivating sources of data and developing automated computer hardware and software to facilitate efficient, comprehensive, and accurate analyses of the data collected from large, heterogeneous databases throughout the national aviation system. The ASMM addresses the need to provide means for increasing safety by enabling the identification and correcting of predisposing conditions that could lead to accidents or to incidents that pose aviation risks.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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