Tag Archives: Technology

Views from the Solar System (219)

Solar Dynamics Observatory Captures Images of Lunar Transit

NASA – On July 26, 2014, from 10:57 a.m. to 11:42 a.m. EDT, the moon crossed between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the sun, a phenomenon called a lunar transit. A lunar transit happens approximately twice a year, causing a partial solar eclipse that can only be seen from SDO’s point of view. Images of the eclipse show a crisp lunar horizon, because the moon has no atmosphere that would distort light. This image shows the blended result of two SDO wavelengths – one in 304 wavelength and another in 171 wavelength.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO

Getting a charge out of water droplets

By David L. Chandler – In attempting to develop an improved heat-transfer surface to be used as a condenser in applications such as power plants—that droplets on a superhydrophobic surface convert surface energy to kinetic energy as they merge to form larger droplets.

This sometimes causes the droplets to spontaneously jump away, enhancing heat transfer by 30% relative to other techniques.

They later found that in that process, the jumping droplets gain a small electric charge—meaning that the jumping, and the accompanying transfer of heat, could be enhanced by a nearby metal plate whose opposite charge is attractive to the droplets.

Now the researchers have shown that the same process can be used to generate power. more> http://tinyurl.com/qdf7oot

NASA technology (101)

NASA’s Webb Sunshield Stacks Up to Test!

NASA – The Sunshield on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the largest part of the observatory—five layers of thin membrane that must unfurl reliably in space to precise tolerances. Last week, for the first time, engineers stacked and unfurled a full-sized test unit of the Sunshield and it worked perfectly.

The Sunshield is about the length of a tennis court, and will be folded up like an umbrella around the Webb telescope’s mirrors and instruments during launch. Once it reaches its orbit, the Webb telescope will receive a command from Earth to unfold, and separate the Sunshield’s five layers into their precisely stacked arrangement with its kite-like shape.

The Sunshield test unit was stacked and expanded at a cleanroom in the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California.

The Sunshield separates the observatory into a warm sun-facing side and a cold side where the sunshine is blocked from interfering with the sensitive infrared instruments. The infrared instruments need to be kept very cold (under 50 K or -370 degrees F) to operate.   The Sunshield protects these sensitive instruments with an effective sun protection factor or SPF of 1,000,000 (suntan lotion generally has an SPF of 8-50).

In addition to providing a cold environment, the Sunshield provides a thermally stable environment. This stability is essential to maintaining proper alignment of the primary mirror segments as the telescope changes its orientation to the sun.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

For more information about the Webb telescope, visit:  www.jwst.nasa.gov or www.nasa.gov/webb

For more information on the Webb Sunshield, visit:  http://jwst.nasa.gov/sunshield.html

Photo Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Updates from GE


The Micro Kitchen from the Microfactory Could Go Big

GE – The online design community FirstBuild recently launched a design challenge to develop a “micro kitchen,” the culinary equivalent of the Swiss Army knife that holds everything required to prepare a late night snack as well as a Thanksgiving feast. Today, it cut the ribbon on an open-design “microfactory” to produce it.

The microfactory will tap FirstBuild’s global, collaborative group of designers, fabricators and enthusiasts to crack engineering and design challenges. The plant’s small size will allow it to customize appliances through small-batch production and fast-track them to market. “FirstBuild will able to create, design, build and sell new innovations for the home faster than ever before,” says Venkat Venkatakrishnan, R&D director at GE Appliances. more> http://tinyurl.com/lgqsnea

Updates from GE

This Fuel Cell Startup Could Spark a Revolution

GE – A fuel cell works like a battery, using a simple chemical reaction to provide energy. In fuel cells, this reaction involves hydrogen molecules abundant in natural gas and oxygen from ordinary air.

It sounds easy enough, but the process is full of pitfalls. Car companies, for example, have tried to make fuel cells work as a replacement for the internal combustion engine for more 20 years without commercial success.

But scientists in GE labs recently cracked an important conundrum involving one iteration of the technology called solid oxide fuel cell, or SOFC.

The fuel cell has no moving parts. The guts of the cell look like a stack of cookies. Each cookie is a metallic plate with a maze of flow channels cut into the bottom and a square of black “icing” on top.

That icing is the core of the breakthrough that makes the solid oxide fuel cell work. It contains three layers made from special ceramic materials: the cathode on top, the anode on the bottom, and a dense layer of solid oxide electrolyte in the middle.

GE is using additive thermal spray technology originally developed to protect parts working inside jet engines to deposit the anode and the electrolyte. more> http://tinyurl.com/pexm6fo