Special Coverage

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
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing

Method of Water Regeneration From Waste and Cascade Distillation

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Effective recovery of potable water from various streams and sources of wastewater, seawater, or contaminated water is a significant task for securing existence of human beings in space, terrestrial, and marine environments. Efficient purification of the wastewater is also a very important task for protection of the global environment. The existing and known methods of recovery of clean water from the wastewater are technically complicated, have low energy efficiency, consume processing material, and are bulky, heavy, and not cost effective.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Recycling Technologies, Physical Sciences, Water reclamation
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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, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Materials, Fiber Optics, Physical Sciences, Solar energy, Fibers, Polymers, Semiconductors
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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, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Wind Power, Physical Sciences, Energy storage systems, Wind power, Marine vehicles and equipment
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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, Energy Storage, Materials, Nanotechnology, Physical Sciences, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Metallurgy, Nanomaterials
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A Continuous-Flow, Microfluidic, Microwave-Assisted Chemical Reactor

The reactor uses a directed 60-GHz source, which may require far less power to observe the same reactivity profiles.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

In industrial synthetic chemistry laboratories, reactions are generally carried out using batch-mode methodologies, stepwise reactions, and purifications to generate a final product. Each step has an associated yield of both the reaction itself and of the final purification that is largely dependent on the procedure being used, and the scientist carrying out the procedure. Continuous-flow reactors are one way of streamlining the process. Furthermore, microwave-enhanced, or microwave-assisted, chemistry has been demonstrated to aid in many of these areas; however, scaling has been a traditional problem with this technique.

Posted in: Articles, Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, RF & Microwave Electronics, Instrumentation, Test & Measurement, Research and development, Chemicals
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Monolithic Dual Telescope for Compact Biaxial Lidar

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

A document discusses the Ultra Compact Cloud Physics Lidar, a biaxial lidar with a narrow receiver field of view. It requires tight optical alignment between the transmitter and receiver paths while flying on various aircraft over various temperatures and in the presence of vibration. To achieve optical crossover as close to the lidar as possible, the transmit and receive telescopes must be built very closely to each other.

Posted in: Articles, Briefs, TSP, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Physical Sciences, Optics, Vibration, Aircraft
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Ultra-Low-Maintenance Portable Ocean Power Station

These fuel cell systems can be used for remote power generation, transportation applications, or in offshore wells.

The goals of this research are to develop a relatively inexpensive, compact, and modular power package for deep offshore oil drilling or other undersea applications that provides 2 to 5 MW electricity, minimal maintenance, and at least 30 years of life.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Electric power, Drilling
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Mars-Optimized Solar Cells

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Commercial triple junction solar cell designs were modified in their junction thicknesses, contact grid densities, and anti-reflective (AR) coating thicknesses to better match the Mars surface solar spectrum. Resulting cells show up to approximately 8% relative improvement in efficiency under the Mars solar spectrum, compared to non-optimized space solar cells, in testing performed at JPL.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Solar energy
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Alternating Magnetic Field Forces for Satellite Formation Flying

John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Orbiting a large number of satellites in fixed formations will be critical to many future space missions, especially large-scale interferometers, telescopes, antennas, and gravity wave detectors. Consequently, extensive research has been devoted over the last 20 years to formation flying architectures, concentrating not only on the mission objective, but also on the technologies required to achieve a stable satellite formation. Several proposals have been suggested for determining the location of the satellites, but the more difficult problem is developing a system that can hold the satellites at those desired locations and orientations. The two most common solutions are to use microthrusters, though these require propellant and will eventually be depleted, or to choose orbital patterns that minimize relative perturbations, but for highly precise positioning, this is not adequate. Neither of these approaches solves the problem for long-duration missions such as a multi-element telescope where the mirrors must be located and oriented to a tolerance less than an optical wavelength.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Flight management systems, Satellites
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Thermal Materials Protect Priceless Personal Keepsakes

Thermal protection technology used on the shuttles keeps valuables safe from fire.

Most of us cannot comprehend the task of building something to withstand temperatures over 4,000 °F, but NASA can. The space shuttles endured such temperatures when returning to Earth’s atmosphere because of aerodynamic heating, or heating due to the combination of compression and surface friction from Earth’s atmosphere. For the vehicle to survive these conditions, NASA constructed a complex thermal protection system (TPS) for the exterior of the shuttle.

Posted in: Articles, Materials, Physical Sciences, Fire
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