Physical Sciences

Using Laser Diodes to Characterize Force and Pressure Sensors

A proposed method of characterizing microphones and other pressure and force sensors would exploit the temporally varying forces of impingement of amplitude-modulated light beams from inexpensive laser diodes. What makes the method likely to be practical is the surprising fact that these forces, albeit small, are nevertheless large enough to enable quantification of the noise floors, sensitivities, and frequency responses of many modern pressure sensors. The time-averaged force of impingement of a pulsed beam of light on a surface is given by F = SDP/c, where S ranges from 1 for a totally absorptive (black) to 2 for a perfectly reflective surface, D is the pulse duty cycle, P is the peak power of the beam, and c is the speed of light. Hence, if one knows S, D, and P, it may be possible to determine the absolute sensitivity of the sensor. Even if one does not know one or more of these parameters, it should be possible to determine the relative sensitivities of different sensors by measuring their responses to the same modulated beam, or to determine the relative frequency response of a given sensor by measuring its output while sweeping the modulation frequency.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Measurements, Lasers, Sensors and actuators, Lasers, Sensors and actuators

Thermocouple Rakes for Measuring Boundary-Layer Flows

Thin-film devices that comprise heaters in combination with thermocouples have been developed for measuring flow velocities extremely close to solid surfaces, at several distances from the surface of interest. Devices that perform this function are denoted generally as “boundary-layer rakes.” The measurement data acquired by boundary-layer rakes are needed for calculating viscous shear forces, for developing mathematical models of turbulence to be used in computational fluid dynamics, and as feedback in some flow-control systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Mathematical models, Semiconductor devices, Semiconductor devices, Test equipment and instrumentation, Turbulence

Boundary Conditions for Computing Flows of Real Gas Mixtures

An improved formulation of equations of flow of a general gas mixture includes consistent boundary conditions that are applicable to real gases. An analysis of prior formulations, with focus on boundary conditions, led to the conclusion that boundary conditions based on ideal mixtures and/or perfect gases can lead to errors in computed flows of real gases. The improved formulation makes it possible to achieve greater accuracy in computation of flows of real (including chemically reactive) gas mixtures, and is expected to be especially beneficial in computing flows of supercritical fluids like those in diesel engines, gas turbine engines, rocket engines, supercritical-fluid extraction processes, and crude oil under high pressure.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Mathematical analysis, Gases

Seed-Wing Flyers for Exploration

Small instrumented, free-flying (unpowered) rotary aircraft have been proposed for use in gathering scientific data from hazardous or inaccessible terrain on remote planets as well as on Earth. These aircraft are called “seed-wing flyers” because they would resemble winged seeds (e.g., maple seeds) in both appearance and aerodynamic behavior.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Test equipment and instrumentation, Fixed-wing aircraft, Spacecraft, Unmanned aerial vehicles

Long-Life Stratospheric Balloon System With Altitude Control

A proposed improved balloon system for carrying scientific instruments in the stratosphere would include a lightweight, ambient-pressure helium balloon and a vented infrared Montgolfiere (see figure). [An infrared Montgolfiere is an ambient-pressure warm-air balloon, named after the familiar fire-heated hot-air balloons invented by the Montgolfier brothers. An infrared Montgolfiere is heated primarily by the Sun during the day, and/or by infrared radiation from relatively warm surface of the Earth at night.] The system would feature controllability of altitude for taking scientific data, landing, or taking advantage of favorable winds for relocation. The system would be designed for long life, but would weigh less (and therefore cost less) than do previously developed long-life balloon systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Sun and solar, Heat transfer, Heat transfer, Fabrics, Gases

Direct Methanol Fuel Cells With Aerosol Feed

Direct methanol fuel cells that would function with aerosol feed (instead of all-gas or all-liquid feed) have been proposed. As explained below, aerosol feed would afford the advantages of liquid feed, while reducing or eliminating some of the disadvantageous effects of liquid feed.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Fuel cells, Methanol

DNS of a Supercritical H₂/O₂ Mixing Layer

This report discusses direct numerical simulations (DNS) of a mixing layer between supercritical flows of oxygen and hydrogen. The governing conservation equations were those of fluctuation- dissipation (FD) theory, in which low-pressure typical transport properties (viscosity, diffusivity and thermal conductivity), are complemented, at high pressure, by a thermal-diffusion factor.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Mathematical models, Hydrogen fuel, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamics, Oxygen

Hand-Held Optoelectronic Particulate Monitors

Optoelectronic instruments are being developed for use in measuring the concentrations and sizes of microscopic particles suspended in air. The instruments could be used, for example, to detect smoke, explosive dust in grain elevators, or toxic dusts in industrial buildings. Like some older, laboratory-bench-style particulate monitors, these instruments are based on diffraction of light by particles. However, these instruments are much smaller; exploiting recent advances in optics, electronics, and packaging, they are miniaturized into compact, hand-held units.

Posted in: ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Briefs, TSP, Photonics, Physical Sciences, Downsizing, Measurements, Microscopy, Optics, Microscopy, Optics, Particulate matter (PM)

A Multifunctional Active-Excitation Spectral Analyzer

A highly sensitive, low-power, low-noise multifunctional active-excitation spectral analyzer (MAESA) that would span the wavelength range of 0.5 to 2.5 µm and would operate near room temperature is undergoing development. The fully developed MAESA is expected to be a portable and highly miniaturized version of a prototype of the instrument that has been demonstrated in a laboratory. The MAESA is intended primarily for use in remote sensing of chemical compositions of mineral surfaces on planets or on Earth.

Posted in: ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Spectroscopy, Spectroscopy, Product development, Chemicals, Test equipment and instrumentation

Development of Sensors for Detecting Leaks of O2 and H2

The Propulsion group at Dryden Flight Research Center is performing analyses of the effectiveness of chemical-species sensors for detecting and assessing leakage. The group is also studying relationships between (1) rates at which high-energy species leak from the propellant-feed systems of advanced aircraft and spacecraft and (2) the rates of leakage of inert species substituted for the high-energy species in the same systems. Several commercial sensors and a prototype noncommercial sensor have been and continue to be subjected to tests of their ability to detect their respective chemical species accurately and quickly. Analysis of the data from these tests is expected to determine whether it is possible to develop instruments capable of detecting propellant leaks over a wide range of temperature and pressure. If suitable, the instruments can be employed in various flight experiments in which there are requirements for such leak-detection capability. Analysis of data from inert- and high-energy-propellant leak testing will help in scaling leakage from gaseous propellant feed systems without the need to use high-energy propellants during subsequent leak tests.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Failure analysis, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Propellants, Gases, Fuel injection, Test procedures

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