Tech Briefs

The Technical Work Plan Tracking Tool

The Technical Work Plan Tracking Tool is a web-based application that enables interactive communication and approval of contract requirements that pertain to the administration of the Science, Engineering, Analysis, and Test (SEAT) contract at Johnson Space Center. The implementation of the application has (1) shortened the Technical Work Plan approval process, (2) facilitated writing and documenting requirements in a performance-based environment with associated surveillance plans, (3) simplified the contractor’s estimate of the cost for the required work, and (4) allowed for the contractor to document how they plan to accomplish the work. The application is accessible to over 300 designated NASA and contractor employees via two Web sites. For each employee, the application regulates access according to the employee’s authority to enter, view, and/or print out diverse information, including reports, work plans, purchase orders, and financial data. Advanced features of this application include on-line approval capability, automatic email notifications requesting review by subsequent approvers, and security inside and outside the firewall.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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High-Temperature Switched-Reluctance Electric Motor

Motors like this one would be incorporated into gas turbines as starter/generators. An eight-pole radial magnetic bearing has been modified into a switched-reluctance electric motor capable of operating at a speed as high as 8,000 rpm at a temperature as high as 1,000 °F (Å540 °C). The motor (see figure) is an experimental prototype of starter-motor/ generator units that have been proposed to be incorporated into advanced gas turbine engines and that could operate without need for lubrication or active cooling.

Posted in: Mechanics, Briefs

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Using ERF Devices To Control Deployments of Space Structures

A report proposes devices containing electrorheological fluids (ERFs) damper for controlling deployments of lightweight, flexible structures in outer space. The structures would include spring members that could be wound or compressed for compact stowage during transport. The ERF based damper would keep the structures compacted and/or regulate the speeds with which the structures would spring out for deployment. After deployment, ERF based dampening mechanism could be used to rigidize the structures or damp their vibrations. The report describes several potential variations on the basic concept of an ERF-controlled structural member, including compartmentalization of the interior volume to prevent total loss of the ERF in case of a leak and the use of multiple, individually addressable electrode pairs to enable more localized control.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Semiselective Optoelectronic Sensors for Monitoring Microbes

These real-time sensors distinguish among classes (not individual species) of microbes. Sensor systems are under development for use in real-time detection and quantitation of microbes in water without need for sampling. These systems include arrays of optical sensors; miniature, portable electronic data-acquisition circuits; and optoelectronic interfaces between the sensor arrays and data-acquisition circuits. These systems are intended for original use in long-term, in-line monitoring of waterborne micro-organisms in water-reclamation systems aboard future spacecraft. They could also be adapted to similar terrestrial uses with respect to municipal water supplies, stored drinking water, and swimming water; for detecting low-level biological contamination in biotechnological, semiconductor, and pharmaceutical process streams; and in verifying the safety of foods and beverages. In addition, they could be adapted to monitoring of airborne microbes and of surfaces (e.g., to detect and/or quantitate biofilms).

Posted in: Briefs

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Miniature Gas-Turbine Power Generator

Energy density would greatly exceed that of a typical battery system. A proposed microelectromechanical system (MEMS) containing a closed- Brayton-cycle turbine would serve as a prototype of electric- power generators for special applications in which high energy densities are required and in which, heretofore, batteries have been used. The system would have a volume of about 6 cm3 and would operate with a thermal efficiency >30 percent, generating up to 50 W of electrical power. The energy density of the proposed system would be about 10 times that of the best battery-based systems now available, and, as such, would be comparable to that of a fuel cell.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Pneumatically Actuated Miniature Peristaltic Vacuum Pumps

Small, rugged, low-power pumps could be fabricated inexpensively. Pneumatically actuated miniature peristaltic vacuum pumps have been proposed for incorporation into advanced miniature versions of scientific instruments that depend on vacuum for proper operation. These pumps are expected to be capable of reaching vacuum-side pressures in the torr to millitorr range (from ≈133 down to ≈0.13 Pa). Vacuum pumps that operate in this range are often denoted roughing pumps. In comparison with previously available roughing pumps, these pumps are expected to be an order of magnitude less massive and less power-hungry. In addition, they would be extremely robust, and would operate with little or no maintenance and without need for oil or other lubricants. Portable mass spectrometers are typical examples of instruments that could incorporate the proposed pumps. In addition, the proposed pumps could be used as roughing pumps in general laboratory applications in which low pumping rates could be tolerated.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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A Reactive-Ion Etch for Patterning Piezoelectric Thin Film

Gaseous mixtures BCl3 and Cl2 are highly selective for etching PbZr1-xTixO3 films. Reactive-ion etching (RIE) under conditions described below has been found to be a suitable means for patterning piezoelectric thin films made from such materials as PbZr1-xTixO3 or BaxSr1-xTiO3. In the original application for which this particular RIE process was developed, PbZr1-xTixO3 films 0.5 μm thick are to be sandwiched between Pt electrode layers 0.1 µm thick and Ir electrode layers 0.1 μm thick to form piezoelectric capacitor structures. Such structures are typical of piezoelectric actuators in advanced microelectromechanical systems now under development or planned to be developed in the near future.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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