Tech Briefs

Optical Fiber for Solar Cells

These materials enable new solar-powered devices that are small, lightweight, and can be used without connection to existing electrical grids. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California Polymeric and inorganic semiconductors offer relatively high quantum efficiencies, and are much less expensive and versatile to fabricate than non-amorphous silicon wafers. An optical fiber and cladding can be designed and fabricated to confine light for transport within ultraviolet and near-infrared media, using evanescent waves, and to transmit visible wavelength light for direct lighting.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Fiber Optics

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Pumped Subsea Energy Storage

This technique would be applicable to offshore oil platforms and energy storage for public utilities. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A local energy source is desired for near-shore and offshore applications. Gas generators, diesel generators, and long-length submerged power cables tend to be expensive. A proposed solution is to use offshore wind with some type of energy storage mechanism for up to 1 GW-h. Energy storage in batteries is too expensive and massive, and subsea compressed air energy storage (CAES) has not been proven for very deep depths. Furthermore, CAES involves very great temperature changes that result in large inefficiencies.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Wind Power

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Carbon Nanotube Tower-Based Supercapacitor

A new technology to create electrochemical double-layer supercapacitors is provided using carbon nanotubes as electrodes of the storage medium. This invention allows efficient transport between the capacitor electrodes through the porous nature of the nanotubes, and has a low interface resistance between the electrode material and the collector. Carbon nanotubes directly grown on a metal surface are used to improve the supercapacitor performance. The nanotubes offer a high surface area and usable porosity for a given volume and mass, both of which are highly desirable for supercapacitor operation.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy Storage

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Hands-Free Control Interfaces for an Extravehicular Jetpack

This hands-free approach could be applicable to other robotic interfaces requiring six-DOF control inputs. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas To enable the human mobility necessary to effectively explore near-Earth asteroids and deep space effectively, a new extravehicular activity (EVA) jetpack is under development. The new design leverages knowledge and experience gained from the current astronaut rescue device, the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER). Whereas the primary goal for a rescue device is to return the crew to a safe haven, in-space exploration and navigation requires an expanded set of capabilities. To accommodate the range of tasks astronauts may be expected to perform while utilizing the jetpack, it was desired to research a hands-free method of control. This hands-free control method would enable astronauts to command their motion while transporting payloads and conducting two-handed tasks.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Sensors

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Artificial Immune System-Based Approach for Air Combat Maneuvering

The primary motivation for this research is to enable unmanned aircraft with intelligent maneuvering capabilities. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California A high level of autonomy is desired for future unmanned combat systems because lethality and survivability can be improved with much less communication bandwidth than would be necessary for preprogrammed or remotely operated systems. However, there are a number of technical challenges that must be addressed prior to implementation.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Simulation Software

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Rule-Based Analytic Asset Management for Space Exploration Systems (RAMSES)

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems have applications in tracking and managing small shipping containers and packages in the commercial supply chain. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi Human space systems, such as the International Space Station (ISS) and future planned missions to the lunar surface and beyond, require the crew’s ability to locate and manage the physical resources that are required for use to achieve mission objectives. However, the large number of assets, ranging from expensive, specialized equipment, to food, water, and medical consumables for the crew is an overwhelming management problem. These assets are stored in numerous containers that are sometimes nested within other containers, frequently removed from one container and placed in another location, consumed, and/or used, and then discarded. Additionally, sometimes the containers themselves are moved. The challenge is to track and manage these assets so that the crew can readily locate items and ground controllers can identify when there is a need to provide sufficient resupply for the mission.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Design for Improving the Flatness of Solar Sails

An optically flat solar sail could be useful in optical communication and solar energy applications. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California This work describes a discontinuous or segmented mirror whose overall flatness is less dependent on the limited tension that can be supplied by the booms. A solar sail is a large, nominally flat sheet of extremely thin reflectorized film rigidly attached to a spacecraft, enabling propulsion via solar radiation pressure. Rip-stop fibers embedded in the backside of the film — with diameters ≈100× the thickness of the film — are commonly used to arrest tear propagation, which can easily occur in the handling and/or deployment of these gossamer-thin structures. Typically, the thin film or membrane that is the sail is systematically folded to enable both volumetrically compact transportation to space and mechanized deployment. It is the aggressive folding and creasing of the thin film that limits the ultimate flatness that can be achieved.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Solar Power

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