Special Coverage

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines

Self-Regulating, Freezable Heat Exchanger for Spacecraft

Freeze-tolerant tubing can be used in home and commercial sprinkler systems and water supply lines.

Aspacecraft thermal control system must keep the vehicle, avionics, and atmosphere (if crewed) within a defined temperature range. Water coolant loops are typically used to transport heat to or from the cabin of a crewed spacecraft via heat exchangers to the heat sink systems that reject the heat to space. Water is non-toxic and good for heat transport, but it has a high freeze point. Thus, there is concern that the water loop can freeze and damage the thermal control system unless a low-freeze-point intermediate fluid loop is included. Incorporating a freeze-tolerant water/ice heat exchanger can eliminate this risk, and offers a novel approach to spacecraft thermal control, since parts of the heat exchanger can be selectively frozen to passively increase the turndown of the heat rejection rate. In addition, it has the potential to simplify the thermal control system and thereby reduce its size and mass.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Low-Power, Lightweight, Ultra-Compact Reverse Water Gas Shift Reactor

This reactor can be used to produce reagents for methanol, formaldehyde, acetic acid, or ethylene production.

Utilizing CO2 to produce H2O and O2 is critical for sustained manned missions in space, and supports both NASA’s cabin Atmosphere Revitalization System (ARS) and ln-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) concepts. For long-term missions beyond low Earth orbit where resupply of consumables is significantly more difficult and costly, open-loop ARS can reduce the effectiveness of consumables recovery. The Bosch process has the potential to achieve complete loop closure for 100% O2 recovery; however, it has several limitations, including reactor fouling and low single-pass efficiency. NASA MSFC has been developing an innovative Bosch system comprising a Reverse Water Gas Shift (RWGS) reactor and a downstream Carbon Formation reactor that would significantly improve the overall O2 recovery.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Software Suite for Identifying Suspicious Individuals

It can be very useful to know about activities among individuals; for example, which individuals are associated with other individuals? When two or more individuals get together, is there an intended purpose? Who are the leaders or important individuals of a group? What is the organizational structure of the group? It can prove useful to have the capability to actually model the above types of interactions and associations. To an extent, this type of social research has been addressed by employing the disciplines of data mining and community generation.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Inflatable Airlock Technologies

This technology can be used for tents, bags, barometric chambers, or wherever environmental barriers are needed.

An airlock used in space can provide the ability to leave a pressurized volume and enter free space. This is necessary to perform maintenance or make repairs to the pressurized volume or visiting spacecraft, construct or repair structures or devices, tend in-space experiments, etc. The airlock is used to provide the transition between internal pressurized volume, i.e. a shirtsleeve environment, and space. Current state-of-the-art units on the Space Station are rigid systems consisting of massive pressure vessels, hatches, and seals. Past efforts have investigated fabric-based ways of forming the airlock pressure volume, but all have used a more traditional metallic or composite door or hatch, which are heavy and difficult to package into a small volume. The need exists for an airlock, pressure vessel, and opening that are lightweight and can be packaged efficiently.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Nanowire “Inks” for Paper-Based Printable Electronics

Highly conductive films make functional circuits without adding high heat.

Printed electronics must be heated to melt all the nanoparticles together into a single conductive wire, making it impossible to print circuits on inexpensive plastics or paper. A study shows that tweaking the shape of the nanoparticles in the ink could eliminate the need for heat.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Portable Kit Recovers Traces of Chemical Evidence

This measurement kit can recover trace chemicals such as environmental pollutants, and forensic evidence such as arson fire debris.

An arson investigation typically requires collecting one or two liters of ashes and debris from various locations within a fire scene in metal cans similar to those used for paint, and sending the material to a lab. The testing methods typically include gas and liquid chromatography or various versions of spectroscopy, with gas chromatography being the most widely used in fire debris analysis. When the fire debris is received at the testing facility, samples are taken for testing. Sometimes this will involve suspending a strip with activated charcoal in the air or “headspace” directly above the sample in the metal can for a period of time that can vary, depending on the judgment of the analyst, for 2-3 hours or up to 16 hours.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement
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Optimized Route Finding for Air and Ground Vehicles

This software provides near-real-time potential, and offers collision and adverse weather avoidance.

The Automated Impacts Routing (AIR) software is advanced route finding technology for air and ground vehicles. The software provides users the ability to find optimized paths through airspace or ground space, taking into consideration multiple and dynamic adverse conditions that can determine mission success or failure.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Automated Transfer Function Generator

When designing or analyzing electrical systems, it is important to understand the relationship between input and output. Power conversion occurs in a “black box,” and transfer functions can be used to provide a better understanding of the processes occurring in this black box. Although they provide a useful analysis tool, transfer functions are not often utilized because they require complicated, time-consuming derivation that ignores nonlinear behavior common in real-world systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Ultralight, Scalable, High-Temperature-Resilient Ceramic Nanofiber Sponges

These sponges can be used for flexible insulation and water purification.

Researchers have made ultralight, highly porous, compressible, and heat-resistant sponge-like materials from nanoscale ceramic fibers. The highly deformable material is made by tangling ceramic nanofibers into a sponge. The method used is inexpensive and scalable for making large quantities.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Overspeed Protection for Turbine Flowmeters in Cryogenic Applications

Flowmeters for cryogenic applications often fail in service. Turbine flowmeters in particular fail due to very high speeds encountered during chill-down operations. Very cold, very high-velocity gas causes the turbine to spin uncontrollably, which quickly degrades bearings. Those flowmeters that do not fail are often unreliable, degrading their effectiveness as instrumentation to monitor and control cryogenic propellant loading.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement
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