Nested Focusing Optics for Compact Neutron Sources
Nested Focusing Optics for Compact Neutron Sources
Conventional neutron beam experiments demand high fluxes that can only be obtained at research facilities equipped with a reactor source and neutron optics. However, access to these facilities is limited. The NASA technology uses grazing incidence reflective optics to produce focused beams of neutrons (Figure 1) from compact commercially available sources, resulting in higher flux concentrations. Neutrons are doubly reflected off of a parabolic and hyperbolic mirror at a sufficiently small angle, creating neutron beams that are convergent, divergent, or parallel. Neutron flux can be increased by concentrically nesting mirrors with the same focal length and curvature, resulting in a convergence of multiple neutron beams at a single focal point. The improved flux from the compact source may be used for non-destructive testing, imaging, and materials analysis. The grazing incidence neutron optic mirrors are fabricated using an electroformed nickel replication technique developed by NASA and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Figure 2). A machined aluminum mandrel is super-polished to a surface roughness of 3-4 angstroms root mean square and plated with layers of highly reflective nickel-cobalt alloy. Residual stresses that can cause mirror warping are eliminated by periodically reversing the anode and cathode polarity of the electroplating system, resulting in a deformation-free surface. The fabrication process has been used to produce 0.5 meter and 1.0 meter lenses.
Cryostat-100 combines the best features of previous cryostats developed by NASA, while offering new features and conveniences. This unit can readily handle the full range of cryogenic-vacuum conditions over several orders of magnitude of heat flux. Guide rings, handling tools, and other design items make insulation change-out and test measurement verification highly reliable and efficient to operate. The new apparatus requires less ancillary equipment (it is not connected to storage tank, phase separator, subcooler, etc.) to operate properly. It is top-loading, which makes disassembly, change-out, and instrumentation hook-up much faster. The thermal stability is improved because of internal vapor plates, a single-tube system of filling and venting, bellows feed-throughs, Kevlar thread suspensions, and heavy-wall stainless-steel construction. The cold mass of Cryostat-100 is 1m long, with a diameter of 168 mm. The test articles can therefore be of a corresponding length and diameter, with a nominal thickness of 25.4 mm. Shorter lengths are acceptable, and thicknesses may be from 0 mm to 50 mm. Tests are conducted from ambient pressure (760 torr) to high vacuum (below 110-4 torr) and at any vacuum pressure increment between these two extremes. The residual gas (and purge gas) is typically nitrogen but can be any purge gas, such as helium, argon, or carbon dioxide. Typically, eight cold vacuum pressures are performed for each test series. The warm boundary temperature is approximately 293 K, and the cold boundary temperature is approximately 78 K. The delta temperature for the cryogenic testing is therefore approximately 215 K. A unique lift mechanism provides for change-out of the insulation test specimens. It also provides for maintenance and other operations in the most effective and time-efficient ways. The lift mechanism is also a key to the modularity of the overall system.
materials and coatings
Cross-Linked Areogels
Polymer Cross-Linked Aerogels (X-Aerogels)
Researchers at NASA's Glenn Research Center have developed an approach to significantly improve the mechanical properties and durability of aerogels without adversely affecting their desirable properties. This approach involves coating conformally and cross-linking the individual skeletal aerogel nanoparticles with engineering polymers such as isocyanates, epoxies, polyimides, and polystyrene. The mechanism of cross-linking has been carefully investigated and is made possible by two reactions: a reaction between the cross-linker and the surface of the aerogel framework and a reaction propagated by the cross-linker with itself. By tailoring the aerogel surface chemistry, Glenn's approach accommodates a variety of different polymer cross-linkers, including isocyanates, acrylates, epoxies, polyimides, and polystyreneenabling customization for specific mission requirements. For example, polystyrene cross-linked aerogels are extremely hydrophobic, while polyimide versions can be used at higher temperatures. Recent work has led to the development of strong aerogels with better elastic properties, maintaining their shape even after repeated compression cycling. By tailoring the internal structure of the silica gels in combination with a polymer conformal coating, the aerogels may be dried at the ambient condition without supercritical fluid extraction.
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