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Microsphere Insulation Panels

Thermal performance and lifetime exceed those of foam insulation. Microsphere insulation panels (MIPs) have been developed as lightweight, long lasting replacements for the foam and vacuum-jacketed systems heretofore used for thermally insulating cryogenic vessels and transfer ducts. Whether preformed or applied in place, foam insulation deteriorates fairly rapidly: on cryogenic transfer lines, it has a life expectancy of about three years. Vacuum-jacketed insulation is expensive and heavy. For both foam and vacuum-jacketed insulation, intensive maintenance is necessary to keep performance at or near its original level. Relative to a polyurethane foam insulation panel, a comparable MIP offers greater thermal performance and longer service life at approximately the same initial cost.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Tantalum-Based Ceramics for Refractory Composites

Compositions can be graded from porous substrates to impervious outer layers. A family of tantalum-based ceramics has been invented as ingredients of high-temperature composite insulating tiles. These materials are suitable for coating and/or permeating the outer layers of rigid porous (foamlike or fibrous) ceramic substrates to (1) render the resulting composite ceramic tiles impervious to hot gases and (2) enable the tiles to survive high heat fluxes at temperatures that can exceed 3,000 °F (≈1,600 °C). Originally intended for use on the future space exploration vehicles, insulating tiles made with these materials may also be useful in terrestrial applications (e.g., some industrial processes) in which there are requirements to protect against flows of hot, oxidizing gases.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Adaptive Modeling Language and Its Derivatives

Modeling language enables automation of the entire product development cycle.Adaptive Modeling Language (AML), developed by TechnoSoft, Inc., is the underlying language of an object-oriented, multidisciplinary, knowledge-based engineering framework. TechnoSoft is a leading provider of object-oriented modeling and simulation technology used for commercial and defense applications. AML offers an advanced modeling paradigm with an open architecture, enabling the automation of the entire product development cycle, integrating product configuration, design, analysis, visualization, production planning, inspection, and cost estimation.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs

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Integrating Terrain Maps Into a Reactive Navigation Strategy

Traversability of terrain is taken into account as an integral part of navigation. An improved method of processing information for autonomous navigation of a robotic vehicle across rough terrain involves the integration of terrain maps into a reactive navigation strategy. Somewhat more precisely, the method involves the incorporation, into navigation logic, of data equivalent to regional traversability maps. The terrain characteristic is mapped using a fuzzy-logic representation of the difficulty of traversing the terrain. The method is robust in that it integrates a global path-planning strategy with sensor-based regional and local navigation strategies to ensure a high probability of success in reaching a destination and avoiding obstacles along the way. The sensor-based strategies use cameras aboard the vehicle to observe the regional terrain, defined as the area of the terrain that covers the immediate vicinity near the vehicle to a specified distance a few meters away. The method at an earlier stage of development was described in “Navigating a Mobile Robot Across Terrain Using Fuzzy Logic” (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 27, No. 2 (February 2003), page 5a. A recent update on the terrain classification stage of the method was reported in “Quantifying Traversability of Terrain for a Mobile Robot” (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 29, No. 7 (July 2005), page 56. To recapitulate: The basic building blocks of the method are three behaviors that focus on successively smaller spatial scales and are integrated (in the sense of blended) through gains or weighting factors to generate speed and steering commands. The weighting factors are generated by fuzzy logic rules that take account of the current status of the vehicle.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Reducing Centroid Error Through Model-Based Noise Reduction

Corrections are made for bias and noise.A method of processing the digitized output of a charge-coupled device (CCD) image detector has been devised to enable reduction of the error in computed centroid of the image of a point source of light. The method involves model-based estimation of, and correction for, the contributions of bias and noise to the image data. The method could be used to advantage in any of a variety of applications in which there are requirements for measuring precise locations of, and/or precisely aiming optical instruments toward, point light sources.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Templates for Fabricating Nanowire/Nanoconduit-Based Devices

Prior templating processes are being extended to finer spatial resolutions. An effort is underway to develop processes for making templates that could be used as deposition molds and etching masks in the fabrication of devices containing arrays of nanowires and/or nanoconduits. Examples of such devices include thermoelectric devices, nerve guidance scaffolds for nerve repair, photonic-band-gap devices, filters for trapping microscopic particles suspended in liquids, microfluidic devices, and size-selective chemical sensors. The technology is an extension of previous work conducted by JPL, UCSD (University of California, San Diego), and Paradigm Optics Inc., which developed a process to fabricate macroporous scaffolds for spinal-cord repair.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs, TSP

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Measuring Vapors To Monitor the State of Cure of a Resin

Excess curing time would no longer be needed as margin against uncertainty. A proposed noninvasive method of monitoring the cure path and the state of cure of an epoxy or other resin involves measurement of the concentration(s) of one or more compound(s) in the vaporous effluent emitted during the curing process. The method is based on the following general ideas:

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs, TSP

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