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

Molten-Carbonate Electrolyzers for Making CO and O2

Molten-carbonate fuel cells would be operated in reverse.

Electrochemical cells in which molten carbonates would serve as electrolytes have been proposed for use in electrolyzing CO2. The proposal was made in an effort to implement a concept of in situ resource utilization (ISRU) for the exploration of Mars; the basic idea is to generate CO (if needed as a fuel) and O2 (for oxidizing fuel and/or for breathing) by electrolysis of CO2 from the Martian atmosphere. On Earth, molten-carbonate electrolyzers could be used to make breathable O2 for medical use, pure O2 for oxidizing surfaces of semiconductor chips, and CO as a feedstock for synthesis of alcohols and hydrocarbons. In both terrestrial and spacecraft life-support systems, the electrolyzers could be used to regenerate breathable O2 from CO2.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, Oxygen

Improved Spherical Energy Analyzer

An improved spherical energy analyzer (a type of electrostatic mass spectrometer) is under development for use in analyzing a beam of ions generated by a Hall thruster. The major improvement, relative to a commercial spherical energy analyzer, is the addition of a quadrupole stage (with refocusing electron optics) for separating ions of different charge states. The development work also includes efforts to make the instrument smaller and lighter than the commercial version in order to make it possible to translate and rotate the instrument through the ion beam inside a vacuum chamber that contains the Hall thruster.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Test equipment and instrumentation

Redundant Oxygen-Deficiency Monitoring System

An oxygen-deficiency monitoring system (ODMS) has been developed for a ten-room facility in which the use of large amounts of nitrogen and helium could cause an oxygen deficiency severe enough to be hazardous to personnel. The ODMS comprises three subsystems, of which two monitor three rooms each, and one monitors four rooms. The ODMS generates alarms when the oxygen content of the air in a room falls below 19.5 mole percent. Each subsystem includes transport pumps that draw air continuously from each room through two tubes. Each subsystem includes two oxygen analyzers equipped with sampling pumps, plus two programmable-logic controllers (PLCs) and associated hardware that control electrically actuated valves that admit small fractions of the transport flows to the oxygen analyzers. The PLCs cause the valves to connect the two oxygen analyzers to two different sampling tubes, and then to switch the connections to a different pair of sampling tubes after an interval of about 10 seconds, and so forth until the air from all sampling points has been monitored, and then the sequence repeats. If one sampling tube, oxygen analyzer, pump, or PLC fails, it can be repaired while the system continues to operate, albeit at a reduced rate.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Oxygen, Test equipment and instrumentation

Report on User's Guidefor Monthly Vector Wind Profile Model

A report briefly describes a user's guide for a computer program that constructs vector wind profiles on the basis of a statistical model. The monthly vector wind profiles are meant to be used (1) to estimate wind-dispersion-related dispersions of critical aerodynamic loads and corresponding aerospace-ascent-vehicle design parameters and (2) to analyze effects of monthly wind-profile dispersions on ascent trajectories and to design ascent autopilot systems to correct for these effects. The user's guide is also said to list output data to aid the user in the verification of test output.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Statistical analysis, Wind power, Aerodynamics

Sizes of Surface and Capped InxGa1-xAs/GaAs Quantum Dots

A report describes an experimental study of the sizes and concentrations of capped (buried) and surface In0.6Ga0.4As/GaAs quantum dots that were grown by metal-organic vapor deposition under the same conditions except for the inclusion or exclusion of capping. [InxGa1-xAs/GaAs quantum dots are lens-shaped islands (typically a few nanometers thick and tens of nanometers in diameter) of InxGa1-xAs grown on a GaAs substrate. As used here, "capping" signifies the growth of a layer of GaAs over the InxGa1-xAs islands.] In the experiments, the sizes of the capped In0.6Ga0.4As/GaAs islands were measured by transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Microscopy, Microscopy, Nanotechnology

Fuel Cell Would Generate Power From Martian Atmosphere

A report proposes the development of a thin-film fuel cell that would generate electric power from two minor constituents of the Martian atmosphere — O2 and CO. These compounds are generated continuously by photolysis of CO2, the major constituent. The fuel cell would include a cathode and an anode made of catalysts suitable for the selective low-temperature electrochemical reduction of O2 and oxidation of CO, respectively. It would also include a hygroscopic gel electrolyte.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Electric power, Fuel cells

Improved Automate System for Transferring Liquid Helium

Consumption of liquid helium would be reduced by optimizing use of vapor for precooling.

An improved automated system for transferring liquid helium from a supply tank to an end-use cryostat has been proposed. Like automated systems developed previously for the same purpose, this system would reduce the time that must be spent by technicians in replenishing cryostats in equipment required to operate for times longer than cryostat holding times. However, relative to prior automated liquid-helium-transfer systems, this system would operate in a more nearly optimum manner so as to reduce the consumption of liquid helium. Examples of equipment with which this system could be used include apparatuses for long-duration scientific experiments and large cooled electromagnets in medical imaging systems

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Automation, Containers, Gases, Fueling safety

Algorithm for Computing Dynamics of Molecules

Equations of motion are solved more efficiently.

The Newton-Euler Inverse Mass Operator (NEIMO) algorithm and software that implements the algorithm have been developed to reduce the amount of time needed to perform computational simulations of the dynamics of macromolecules. The NEIMO algorithm and the associated software are intended, in particular, for simulations of molecular motions at a space-time mesoscale, defined here as a length scale ranging from nanometers to micrometers and a time scale ranging from microseconds to milliseconds. Older molecular-dynamics algorithms and computer programs are not suitable for mesoscale simulations because they were formulated for the time scales, of the order of a microsecond or less, characteristic of such high-frequency degrees of freedom as stretching of molecular bonds.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Computer simulation, Mathematical models, Measurements

Improving Thin Foil X-Ray Mirrors

Resolution and diameter would be increased.

A proposal has been made to develop improved thin foil, replicated conical mirrors for use in x-ray astrophysics. In the NASA astrophysical programs in which such mirrors are used, they are required to be lightweight, and to offer moderate angular resolution and high throughput to afford required sensitivity in the photon-energy band from 0.1 to 20 keV. In the proposed improvement program, emphasis would be placed on increasing resolution and diameter:

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Mirrors

First-Generation Integrated Free-Flying Micro-Spacecraft

The concept of free-flying micro-spacecraft was to develop a miniature spacecraft system fully integrated with a scientific sensor. A fleet of such tiny spacecraft would be deployed in space for multi-probe measurements of a three-dimensional phenomenon and to separate the spatial/temporal variations of that phenomenon. They would measure a parameter of interest, process the data onboard, and communicate the data in real time.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Measurements, Data exchange, Sensors and actuators, Data exchange, Sensors and actuators, Spacecraft

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