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Mixed Conducting Electrodes for Better AMTEC Cells

These electrodes conduct both electrons and sodium cations. Electrode materials that exhibit mixed conductivity (that is, both electronic and ionic conductivity) have been investigated in a continuing effort to improve the performance of the alkali metal thermal-to-electric converter (AMTEC). These electrode materials are intended primarily for use on the cathode side of the sodium-ion-conducting solid electrolyte of a sodium-based AMTEC cell. They may also prove useful in sodium-sulfur batteries, which are under study for use in electric vehicles.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Process for Encapsulating Protein Crystals

Crystals can be grown in forms suitable for x-ray diffraction studies. A process for growing protein crystals encapsulated within membranes has been invented. This process begins with the encapsulation of a nearly saturated aqueous protein solution inside semipermeable membranes to form microcapsules. The encapsulation is effected by use of special formulations of a dissolved protein and a surfactant in an aqueous first liquid phase, which is placed into contact with a second, immiscible liquid phase that contains one or more polymers that are insoluble in the first phase. The second phase becomes formed into the semipermeable membranes that surround microglobules of the first phase, thereby forming the microcapsules. Once formed, the microcapsules are then dehydrated osmotically by exposure to a concentrated salt or polymer solution. The dehydration forms supersaturated solutions inside the microcapsules, thereby enabling nucleation and growth of protein crystals inside the microcapsules.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Alkaline Capacitors Based on Nitride Nanoparticles

One key to success is an oxygen-free, plasma-assisted nitride-synthesis process. High-energy-density alkaline electrochemical capacitors based on electrodes made of transition-metal nitride nanoparticles are undergoing development. Transition-metal nitrides (in particular, Fe3N and TiN) offer a desirable combination of high electrical conductivity and electrochemical stability in aqueous alkaline electrolytes like KOH. The high energy densities of these capacitors are attributable mainly to their high capacitance densities, which, in turn, are attributable mainly to the large specific surface areas of the electrode nanoparticles. Capacitors of this type could be useful as energy-storage components in such diverse equipment as digital communication systems, implanted medical devices, computers, portable consumer electronic devices, and electric vehicles.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Low-EC-Content Electrolytes for Low-Temperature Li-Ion Cells

Electrolytes comprising LiPF6 dissolved at a concentration of 1.0 M in three different mixtures of alkyl carbonates have been found well suited for use in rechargeable lithium-ion electrochemical cells at low temperatures. These and other electrolytes have been investigated in continuing research directed toward extending the lower limit of practical operating temperatures of Li-ion cells down to –60 °C. This research at earlier stages was reported in numerous previous NASA Tech Briefs articles, the three most recent being "Ethyl Methyl Carbonate as a Cosolvent for Lithium-Ion Cells" (NPO-20605), Vol. 25, No. 6 (June 2001), page 53; "Alkyl Pyrocarbonate Electrolyte Additives for Li-Ion Cells" (NPO-20775), Vol. 26, No. 5 (May 2002), page 37; and "Fluorinated Alkyl Carbonates as Cosolvents in Li-Ion Cells (NPO-21076), Vol. 26, No. 05 (May 2002), page 38. The present solvent mixtures, in terms of volume proportions of their ingredients, are 1 ethylene carbonate (EC) + 1 diethyl carbonate (DEC) + 1 dimethyl carbonate (DMC) + 3 ethyl methyl carbonate (EMC); 3EC + 3DMC + 14EMC; and 1EC + 1DEC + 1DMC + 4EMC. Relative to similar mixtures reported previously, the present mixtures, which contain smaller proportions of EC, have been found to afford better performance in experimental Li-ion cells at temperatures <–20 °C.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Advancements in Technology for Controlling Fiber Orientation in Composite Parts

The performance of a composite part is primarily determined by the orientation of fibers in the plies. Designers wishing to exploit the full potential of composite materials, while avoiding manufacturing problems and part failures, must define and control fiber orientation. Anticipating true fiber orientation for a single ply is seldom intuitive, and predicting the behavior of an entire laminate made of tens or hundreds of plies is nearly impossible.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Glass/Ceramic Composites for Sealing Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Ceramic fillers in a glass contribute to strength and fracture toughness. A family of glass/ceramic composite materials has been investigated for use as sealants in planar solid oxide fuel cells. These materials are modified versions of a barium calcium aluminosilicate glass developed previously for the same purpose. The composition of the glass in mole percentages is 35BaO + 15CaO + 5Al2O3 + 10B2O3 + 35SiO2. The glass seal was found to be susceptible to cracking during thermal cycling of the fuel cells.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Composite Elastic Skins for Shape-Changing Structures

Anisotropic stiffness properties can be tailored for specific applications. Composite elastic skins having tailorable mechanical properties have been invented for covering shape-changing (“morphable”) structures. These skins are intended especially for use on advanced aircraft that change shapes in order to assume different aerodynamic properties.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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