Variable-Power Handheld Laser Torch
Features of the handheld torch's design include manual controls to modify the laser diameter and power output in real time. This ability allows the user to adjust the laser depending on circumstantial needs, resulting in a torch that is well suited for in-field repairs of metals where space and time are constrained. The primary applications are likely to be in-field welding and brazing of damaged specialized equipment. The laser technology is a variable-power, continuous-wave, handheld fiber laser torch for brazing metals with an increased precision and maneuverability. The laser hardware and supply measures 24 inches in length, 15 inches in width, and 30 inches in height, with a torch diameter of about 0.8 inches. This size is nearly half that of traditional welding systems, which increases the portability of the machine as well as the welder's maneuverability. The current handheld torch replaces earlier versions of handheld torches that cost over $700K to produce and had much larger footprints. After numerous design improvements and the inclusion of a commercial off-the-shelf fiber laser, the third-generation NASA torch is much smaller, with the handheld component being about 2.5 times larger than standard ink pens. The NASA handheld torch and system integration is estimated to cost between $60K and $70K. NASA has used the handheld laser on Haynes 230 super alloy to improve localized repair procedures. Preliminary tests produced a consistent data set of yield strength (YS), ultimate tensile strength (UTS), and percent elongation (%EL) that are comparable to the results of current GTAW techniques.
electrical and electronics
Robust High Temperature SiC Op Amps Practical Fabrication
The technology is part of a new generation of NASA Glenn SiC integrated circuits with unprecedented durability in the field of high-temperature electronics. For robust operational amplifiers based on SiC Junction Field Effect Transistors (JFETs), this novel compensation method mitigates issues with threshold voltage variations that are an effect of die location on the wafer. Modern high-temperature op amps on the market fall short due to temperature limits (only 225C for silicon-based devices). Previously, researchers noted that multiple op amps on a single SiC wafer had different amplification properties due to different threshold voltages that varied spatially as much as 18% depending on the circuit's distance from the SiC wafer center. While 18% is okay for some applications, other important system applications demand better precision. By applying this technology to the amplifier circuit design process, the op amp will provide the same signal gain no matter its position on the wafer. The compensation approach enables practical signal conditioning that works from 25C up to 500C.
Streamlined Liquid Level Sensing Using Fiber Optics
Armstrong has developed a robust fiber optic–based sensing technology that offers extraordinary accuracy in liquid level measurements. The sensing system uses fiber optic Bragg sensors located along a single fiber optic cable. These sensors actively discern between the liquid and gas states along a continuous fiber and can accurately pinpoint the liquid level. <strong><i>How It Works</strong></i> The technology uses a resistive heater wire bundled with the optical fiber. The heater is pulsed to induce a local temperature change along the fiber, and the fiber Bragg grating data is used to monitor the subsequent cooling of the fiber. The length of fiber in the liquid cools more rapidly than the portion of the fiber in the gas above the liquid. The measurement system accurately establishes the location of this transition to within 1/4-inch. <strong><i>Why It Is Better</strong></i> Armstrong's liquid level sensing technology was originally developed to measure cryogenic liquid levels in rockets, and it represents a significant advancement in the state of the art in this application. Conventional methods for measuring cryogenic liquid levels rely on cryogenic diodes strategically placed along a rod or rack. The diodes are mounted in pre-selected, relatively widely spaced positions along the length of a rod; this configuration provides limited, imprecise data. Furthermore, each diode on the rod has two wires associated with it, which means a single system may require a large number of wires, making installation, connectivity, and instrumentation cumbersome. Armstrong's novel technology provides liquid measurements with much greater precision, achieving measurements at 1/4-inch intervals. Furthermore, the streamlined system uses just two wires, which greatly simplifies installation and instrumentation. Due to its extraordinary accuracy and ease of use, Armstrong's measurement system offers important advantages for a wide range of applications beyond cryogenic liquids. <strong><i>In Addition</strong></i> Researchers have developed a new manufacturing process that improves the ability of fiber optic sensing systems to measure temperature and liquid levels when operating in humid environments. The process involves eliminating moisture from the optical fiber coating, then completing the sensor assembly within humidity-controlled conditions. The resulting sensor hardware provides precise and accurate measurements even when operating in a humid environment. <b><i>For more information about the full portfolio of FOSS technologies, see DRC-TOPS-37 or visit <a href=https://technology-afrc.ndc.nasa.gov/featurestory/fiber-optic-sensing>https://technology-afrc.ndc.nasa.gov/featurestory/fiber-optic-sensing</a></b></i>
mechanical and fluid systems
Variable-Aperture Reciprocating Reed (VARR) Valve
The VARR valve has been designed to provide a variable-size aperture that proportionately changes in relation to gas flow demand. When the pressure delta between two chambers is low, the effective aperture cross-sectional area is small, while at high delta pressure the effective aperture cross-sectional area is large. This variable aperture prevents overly restricted gas flow. As shown in the drawing below, gas flow through the VARR valve is not one way. Gas flow can traverse through the device in a back-and-forth reversing flow manner or be used in a single flow direction manner. The contour shapes and spacing can be set to create a linear delta pressure vs. flow rate or other pressure functions not enabled by current standard orifices. Also, the device can be tuned to operate as a flow meter over an extremely large flow range as compared to fixed-orifice meters. As a meter, the device is capable of matching or exceeding the turbine meter ratio of 150:1 without possessing the many mechanical failure modes associated with turbine bearings, blades, and friction, etc.
materials and coatings
Oxide Dispersion Strengthened Medium Entropy Alloy
NASA's ODS-MEA maintains properties up to 1100°C and is not susceptible to deleterious phase changes when exposed to extreme temperatures, an issue ubiquitous to Ni- based superalloys such as Inconel-625 and Inconel-718. Yttria particles are dispersed throughout the alloy to maximize strength and creep resistance at high temperatures using a novel fabrication technique. This technique employs an acoustic mixer to stir nano-scale Yttria oxide powder within a metallic matrix powder, creating a film of Yttria surrounding the larger metallic powder particles. Solid components are then produced from this mixture via SLM, during which the laser disperses the Yttria particles throughout the microstructure. Ultimately, the process eliminates the many expensive and time-consuming steps in the production of ODS alloys via traditional mechanical alloying. NASA's process has been shown to fabricate components with 10x improvement in creep rupture life at 1100°C and provides a 30% increase in strength over what is currently possible with 3D printed parts. The new ODS-MEA composition may find applications where ODS alloys are currently used (e.g., those involving extreme thermal environments). Applications may also include areas where such properties are desirable but the resource-intensive nature and/or inability to produce highly complex geometries via conventional processes ultimately renders their use uneconomical or infeasible. Such uses include gas turbine components (for which increasing inlet temperature enables improved efficiency) for power generation, propulsion (rockets, jet engines, etc.), industrial processes, nuclear energy applications, and sample preparation equipment in the mining and cement production industries, among many others.