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

Absorbent Polymer Reinforcing Fiber

This material improves mechanical properties without degrading their absorption performance.

Absorbent polymers can be used, for instance, to absorb hydrocarbons from an aqueous medium such as the absorption of oil from water. In some configurations, conventional absorbent polymers are contained within a permeable material; for example, conventional spill “socks” and booms can hold an absorbent polymer within a fabric to enable the absorbent polymer to be applied directly to the site of interest. Moreover, conventional absorbent booms can float on a water surface to help contain a spill from spreading beyond the boom. This application, however, requires the absorbent polymer to be contained within a permeable membrane or fabric.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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TiBor Skin Composite Coatings

TiBor Skin is a two-part technology that creates toughened, corrosion- and wear-resistant composite structures. The technology consists of coatings or surface materials for application on metals, plus methods of applying these materials. It also provides methods of integrating the applied coatings with their substrates to form composite structures, the surfaces of which wear and corrode at rates much lower than those currently experienced in the industry.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Customizable Recyclable Launch Packaging

NASA is developing a sustainable in-space manufacturing ecosystem by providing both the capability to create 3D printer filament from currently used packaging material as well as the development of new, high-performance packaging architectures created with materials that are well suited for use in 3D printing. NASA’s in-space manufacturing program supports Earth-based technology development to enable technologies and research on the International Space Station (ISS) and for deep space missions. In 2014, a 3D printer was installed and used successfully on the ISS, creating the first additively manufactured part in space. While additive manufacturing is a game-changing technology for in-space repairs and part formation, it still requires a plastic feedstock material to fabricate the printed parts. Without a recycling capability, long-duration and long-distance missions would require a large supply of feedstock that would either need to be stored onboard, taking up both mass and cargo space, or delivered in expensive resupply missions to enable the continued usage of the 3D printer.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Self-Lubricating Hard Coatings for Extreme Environments

These coatings demonstrated substantial 1 to 2 orders of magnitude improvement in wear resistance.

NASA’ s space goals include a permanent presence on the Moon and an expedition to Mars. The success of habitats and vehicles on the Moon and Mars — and ultimately, of the human exploration of and permanent human presence on the Moon and Mars — is critically dependent on the correct and reliable operation of many moving mechanical assemblies. These harsh environments include severe dust, extreme cold and heat, and high vacuum, which make the use of liquid lubrication systems impractical. Potential threats common to both the Moon and Mars are low ambient temperatures, wide daily temperature swings (thermal cycling), solar flux, cosmic radiation, and large quantities of dust. The surface of Mars provides the additional challenges of dust storms, wind, and a carbon dioxide atmosphere. It is essential, therefore, to develop specialized mechanical components, such as bearings and gears, and to develop proper, long-life solid lubrication systems/coatings for each application.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Self-Healing, Self-Lubricating Tribofilm

This technology could improve the efficiency and durability of engines and other moving metal parts.

Tribologists have developed a diamond-like film that is generated by the heat and pressure of an automotive engine. The ultra-durable, self-lubricating tribofilm — a film that forms between moving surfaces — can be made to develop self-healing, diamondlike carbon (DLC) tribofilms. The film generates itself by breaking down the molecules of the lubricating oil, and can regenerate the tribofilm as it is worn away.

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Functionally Graded Metal-Metal Composite Structures

This structure can be used in pressure vessels, ballistic-impact-resistant structures, and metallic glass alloys.

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a functionally graded metal-metal composite structure. The structure is created using a method that avoids deleterious reactions between the different metal constituents, as would be observed via conventional melt processing. The results are unique alloy compositions and arrangements not typically available through conventional processing routes.

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Ultralight, Scalable, High-Temperature-Resilient Ceramic Nanofiber Sponges

These sponges can be used for flexible insulation and water purification.

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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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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Using Sunlight to Activate the Flow of Electrical Current in a New Material

Modifying the composition of magnetite enables this material to convert sunlight into electrical current.

Mined to make the first compass needles, the mineral magnetite is also made by migratory birds and other animals to allow them to sense north and south, and thus navigate in cloudy or dark atmospheric conditions or under water. Researchers have compositionally modified magnetite to capture visible sunlight and convert this light energy into electrical current. This current may be useful to drive the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen. The team generated this material by replacing one third of the iron atoms with chromium atoms.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Sustainable development, Solar energy, Chromium, Iron, Magnetic materials
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New Materials Could Turn Water into Solar Fuel

A process speeds the discovery of commercially viable solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Solar fuels are created using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers are exploring a range of target fuels, from hydrogen gas to liquid hydrocarbons, but producing any of these fuels involves splitting water.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Carbon dioxide, Sun and solar, Water, Alternative fuels, Research and development, Materials properties
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