'Cool' technology cuts rocket costs,
NASA and private industry have teamed to develop a "revolutionary" technology
that will not only reduce rocket launch costs, but safeguard the
environment--while keeping the world cool. The dual-use technology will replace
traditional rolling-element bearings used in rocket engines and hydrodynamic
journal bearings used in air-conditioner chiller units with hydrostatic
bearings. Fluid pumped into hydrostatic bearing systems keeps the rocket engine
and the chiller's rotating turbopump shaft centered in the pump, reducing
friction and extending the life of the bearings. The fluid enters the small
space between the bearing and the shaft through six or more points around the
perimeter of the rotating shaft. Future military and NASA rocket engines would
be much lighter as a result of hydrostatic bearing pumps, since the new
technology has ten times fewer parts than its traditional counterpart.
Hydrostatic bearings for commercial cooling and refrigeration operate with
HFC-134a, a non-ozone depleting coolant, eliminating the need for 72,000 gallons
of oil annually. Engineers from Marshall Space Flight Center, Pratt &
Whitney, Carrier Corp., and the U.S. Air Force's Phillip Laboratory form the
project's team. E-mail email@example.com.
Electrical burn treatment undergoes clinical tests
Research conducted at the University of Chicago could result in a promising new treatment for the devastating effects of electric shock. The surfactant-based treatment has received FDA approval to begin clinical trials. Additionally, the drug may be effective in treating conventional burns. Dr. Raphael C. Lee and his colleagues administered the surfactant, Poloxamer 188 (P-188), to injured tissue to seal the membrane pores. The Phase 1 trials will monitor the tissue response of the burn patients in real time. Such monitoring has been made possible by the development of a small high-resolution camera and new software that permits more precise 3-D characterization of the injured area on the basis of visual inspection. In addition, enhanced techniques using magnetic resonance imaging are being explored as ways to identify the extent of tissue damage. The Electric Power Research Institute and a group of utilities are sponsoring the research. FAX Barbara Klein at (415) 855-2041.
Real-time weather information system flight-tested
An advanced Cockpit Weather Information system (CWIN) designed to give pilots real-time information on weather conditions anywhere in the U.S. will undergo flight tests this summer. The integrated in-flight communication and navigation system blends data from communication and Global Positioning System satellites, ground weather radar images and lightning strike detetors, and airport observations and forecasts. With the system, flight crews receive complete, up-to-date weather information, including trends, that will enable them to make early decisions to avoid adverse conditions. The information is displayed graphically on a color 10.4-inch-diagonal liquid-crystal display. Information is updated every 15 minutes. Use of off-the-shelf hardware and software has reduced the time and cost of system development. Hardware units include a 486-based data processor, several gigabytes of mass memory storage, and an input/output server to interface with the SATCOM Global Positioning System and existing avionics systems. McDonnell Douglas is the lead company on the project sponsored by the NASA-Langley Research Center. FAX Cristine Nelson at (714) 896-1308.
'Virtual' hospital merges teaching, technology
The patient's chest heaves with each labored breath; his
heart pounds, but more slowly each minute. His blood pressure gradually drops as
his muscles tighten. Anesthesiologists insert tubes to provide him with air and
administer a muscle relaxant. After further resuscitation measures, the
patient's vital signs improve. Surgeons control bleeding and pain. What is
really taking place at Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is not
actual anesthesia and surgery, but virtual operating-room drama. A lifelike,
computer-driven, full-human simulator--similar to the flight simulator
concept--imitates the human body's breathing, pulses, and oxygenation as
authentically as possible. A visitor has to look closely to see that the
"patient" lacks real flesh, blood, and bone. The full-human simulator, a joint
project of the departments of anesthesia, surgery, and nursing, fits into what
W. Bosseau Murray, research director of the simulation lab, calls a
"comprehensive teaching lab." E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Precision laser improves graphite epoxy composite cutting
Diode-pumped, solid-state lasers now under development have the potential to bring about higher quality and lower manufacturing costs for graphite epoxy components. At least that's the opinion of the Precision Laser Machining (PLM) consortium, a group of companies led by TRW under a dual-use technology project. Lasers have been used to cut composites for 10 years. However, previous attempts to cut graphite epoxy components with industrial lasers have been unsuccessful. The high thermal conductivity of the material caused it to become charred or to melt. In recent tests, engineers cut one-eighth-inch-thick graphite epoxy pieces with a diode-pumped, solid-state laser (DPSSL) built by TRW. The resulting pieces had a clean, polished edge. "In addition to cutting of composites, we believe that this laser technology will provide solutions to a wide range of manufacturing needs," states Len Marabella, PLM program, TRW Space & Electronic Group. "These include a variety of welding, drilling, cutting, and surface-modification applications. The consortium currently is working to perfect laser machining processes for production applications, including the development of factory-hardened industrial lasers. FAX Sally Koris at (310) 814-5507.
Space station solar array system undergoes tests
Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space has begun rigorous
testing of a portion of the football-field-size solar arrays planned for the
International Space Station. Called the Solar Array E-Wing, the qualification
unit represents a final manufacturing phase before production of the first
flight hardware. "The E-Wing is a testing block for the photovoltaic arrays that
will provide the power for the space station over its lifetime," says Bob
Bombardier, manager of manufacturing and test operation. In the test, the mast
and blanket assembly will be extended and retracted 84 times, and the individual
solar panel circuits flash-tested with simulated sunlight to verify their
output. The deployed E-Wing blanket measures 108 feet in length and almost 20
feet wide. It represents only one-half of a full wing assembly. "A wing consists
of a mast assembly and two blankets," Bombardier explains. "Each blanket has 84
panels, 82 of which have 200 solar cells each." The space station will contain
eight flexible, deployable, and retractable solar array wings. E-mail email@example.com .
Semiconductor makers unite to keep U.S. ahead of pack
An industry in which a company's output for an entire day may fit in a small suitcase has an enormous effect on the U.S. economy. That's why researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are working to maintain that industry's status as the world leader. Semiconductor manufacturers use radio-frequency power as part of a sophisticated process to produce computer chips. Through a work-for-others contract with SEMATECH, ORNL researchers are providing a radio-frequency benchmark facility to evaluate and standardize components used to make the chips. Chip producers use radio-frequency power to make a plasma from various gases and etch the patterns created by the masks into a wafer. Then they implant conductive ions and deposit insulating oxide films to make transistors. "Knowing the exact amount of radio-frequency power that is coupled to the plasma is more important than ever because the specifications are becoming increasingly stringent," says John Caughman, a member of the Radio Frequency Technology Group. FAX Ron Walli at (423) 574-0595.
Data retrieval system helps labs preserve weapons technology
A melding of new data retrieval technology and the memories of veteran weapons project managers and designers will enable Sandia National Laboratories to preserve 20th century technology. The goal: to ensure responsible stewardship of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile into the 21st century. Acting as moderator, researcher Keith Johnstone videotapes sessions with a weapons specialist and one or two colleagues. "The interaction is very important," he says. "You see the whole process of design and problem-solving come alive in front of you." To support this work, James Borders, who works in Sandia's Engineering Information Management Department, came up with a software-based video retrieval system called RePAV (for Relevant Point of Access). It works like this: The audio portion of a videotaped interview is transcribed and linked to a time code keyed to the video. Meanwhile, the video is converted to a digitized format that enables almost instant access to any frame. When you type in a keyword, the software finds the word in the transcript, matches it with the time-coded information, then accesses the video segment where the word is spoken. FAX A.C. "Ace" Etheridge at (505) 844-6367.
Sealant research for gas-pipe joints gets the green light
The gas industry now can save up to 70% of the cost of
repairing iron pipe joints, thanks to Cornell University researchers. The
anaerobic sealant technology has been used in Great Britain, but U.S. gas
officials were worried the new sealants would not hold up under North American
conditions. They also wanted to understand how the sealants work so that better
and more durable sealants could be developed. To test the technology,
gas-industry officials turned to Anil Netravali, a fiber and polymer scientist,
and Thomas D. O'Rourke, a geotechnical engineer, at Cornell. Here's what they
found: The sealant technology involves injecting methacrylate-based anaerobic
compounds in a pipe joint through a small hole. The sealant gets absorbed and
transported by the jute packing present in the joint. The packing acts as a
reservoir for metal ions, available in the form of iron, rust particles, and
debris that have penetrated the fibers. The metal ions act as a catalyst for the
formation of rubber-like polymers that solidify through the jute fiber matrix.
The polymers, in turn, develop adhesive bonds with surfaces in the joint. E-mail
Susan Lang at SSL4@cornell.edu .