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

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

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

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

Towed-Glider Airborne Launch System Cuts Costs and Increases Efficiency and Safety

NASA seeks partners to collaborate in the development of this new approach for putting satellites in space, enabling low-cost launch services.

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

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

Carbon Nanotube Purification

This non-invasive method cleans and purifies carbon nanotubes without the use of toxic chemicals.

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

Passive High-Temperature Sealing Device

This device can stop the flow of gas or liquid in conditions of sudden overheating.

Asealing device was developed that acts as a high-temperature shutoff valve for pipes and ducts. The device is an annular ring that can be slipped over the outside of the pipe (or built into a flanged spool piece). The cavity inside the device is filled with a gas, liquid, or even a solid. When exposed to an elevated temperature, the material in the cavity expands, providing sufficient inward force to collapse the thinner process pipe wall, stopping flow within the pipe.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamics, Seals and gaskets

Python Interface to Dual-Pol Radar Algorithms (DualPol)

This object-oriented Python module facilitates precipitation retrievals (e.g., hydrometeor type, precipitation rate, precipitation mass, particle size distribution) from polarimetric radar data. It leverages existing open-source radar software packages to perform all-in-one retrievals that are then easily visualized or saved using existing software.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Radar, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Radar, Research and development

Thermal Micro-Extraction Laboratory

Typical extractions in the laboratory require a significant amount of sample material, large-scale equipment, and hands-on participation of a scientist. Such a setup is impractical (or impossible), heavy, and expensive to be carried out on spaceflight instrumentation. While great strides are being made to improve spaceflight instrumentation, the front-end sampling and extraction steps are often neglected. Only a few examples discuss the development of extraction systems for spaceflight, and they are immature in development. Additionally, several other microfluidic methods in development at GSFC will eventually require front-end sampling and extraction instrumentation.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Aircraft instruments, Avionics, Aircraft instruments, Avionics, Systems engineering, Test equipment and instrumentation, Spacecraft

Water-Based, Recyclable Membrane Filters all Types of Nanoparticles

Separation technology is at the heart of water purification, sewage treatment, and reclaiming materials, as well as numerous basic industrial processes. Membranes are used to separate out the smallest nanoscale particles, and even molecules and metal ions. A new type of membrane was developed that could extend the life of a separation system, lower its cost, and in some cases, increase its efficiency as well.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Particulate matter (PM), Water reclamation, Materials properties, Nanomaterials, Industrial vehicles and equipment

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