Tech Briefs

Portable Kit Recovers Traces of Chemical Evidence

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, Spectroscopy, Spectroscopy, Particulate matter (PM), Fire fighting, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Optimized Route Finding for Air and Ground Vehicles

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, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Flight guidance systems, Global positioning systems, Global positioning systems (GPS), Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Flight guidance systems, Global positioning systems, Global positioning systems (GPS), Collision avoidance systems
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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, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Electrical systems, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Electrical systems
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Ultralight, Scalable, High-Temperature-Resilient Ceramic Nanofiber Sponges

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, Ceramics, Heat resistant materials, Lightweight materials, Nanomaterials
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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, Gases, Magnetic materials, Bearings, Gas turbines
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Electrically Conducting Nanoscale Sheets for Reconfigurable Electronics

Almost all aspects of modern life, such as communications and healthcare, depend on microelectronic devices. The demand for more powerful, smaller technology keeps growing, meaning that the tiniest devices are now composed of just a few atoms. One way to solve the problem of making electronic circuits smaller is to make them more flexible so they can serve one purpose and then be completely reconfigured for another purpose.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Integrated circuits, Integrated circuits, Conductivity, Materials properties, Nanomaterials
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Wireless Ultrasonic Inspection Propulsion System

During inspection of pressure vessels and other large structures, an industry-accepted fixture is used to hold the search unit a predetermined distance from the area of interest under inspection. This fixture is then moved manually around the area of interest so that data can be collected and stored for later analysis. The fixture usually is chosen based on price and versatility; automated propulsion is not an option. This results in lower-quality data, as well as a greater chance that an anomaly could be missed due to the erratic motion inherent with manual manipulation.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Wireless communication systems, Wireless communication systems, Inspections, Test procedures
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Towed-Glider Airborne Launch System Cuts Costs and Increases Efficiency and Safety

Putting a satellite into low Earth orbit requires a lot of energy, with ground-launched rockets expending two-thirds of their propellant fighting to get through the atmosphere. Researchers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center have developed an innovative approach to launching satellites into space from an airborne platform. As with other air-launch approaches, it provides significant flexibility in the location and direction of the launch vehicle. Furthermore, unlike other air-based launch techniques, this system avoids the significant drawbacks related to expensive and complex design/development efforts, difficult maneuvering, risks to crew, and inefficient flight performance.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion, Cost analysis, Risk assessments, Launch vehicles, Satellites
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Handheld Device with Reagents for Detection and Diagnostics

The high risk associated with biological threat agents determines that any suspicious sample be handled under strict surety and safety controls, and processed under high-level containment in specialized laboratories. These specialized facilities are complex, very expensive to operate, and need to be staffed by personnel from an extremely limited pool of experts. In addition, safe means of transporting samples suspected of containing highly virulent agents to specialized high-level containment laboratories for analysis is also expensive, requiring, in many countries, the custody of armed personnel. It can be estimated that several million dollars are spent annually worldwide to secure and safely transport an increasing stream of suspicious biological samples that are collected in theaters of war, as well as in domestic environments.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Chemicals, Materials identification, Biohazards, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Carbon Nanotube Purification

Development of carbon nanotubes (CNTs), including single-wall and multi-wall nanotubes and nanofibers, into useful devices requires fabrication of CNTs that are relatively free from process residues such as amorphous carbon and metallic particles that are not part of a CNT array grown on a (coated) substrate. Conventional techniques for removal of amorphous carbon and other residues often use one of several techniques. One technique uses post-growth thermal or plasma cleaning of the amorphous carbon with Ox (x=2), which non-selectively attacks the CNT material as well as the amorphous carbon. Metal contaminants are removed using an acid bath, which is again a non-selective process and requires disposal of the strong acids and contaminant removal byproducts. A second technique uses certain toxic gases, such as halogens, to remove the amorphous carbon and other residues. This approach requires disposal of one or more hazardous substances and often requires many hours to complete. A third approach requires holding the amorphous carbon and CNTs in a heated Ox atmosphere for several hours, in order to limit the damage to the CNTs.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Fabrication, Nanomaterials, Quality assurance, Quality assurance
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