2013 NASA EPSCOR RID PROJECTS
Gaskinetic Studies on Rarefied Plum and Impingement Flow Problems
Principal Investigator: Dr. Chunpei Cai
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Description: Study the problems of rarefied jet and impingement flows, along with their many applications of NASA’s interest, e.g., plume flows from chemical or electric propulsion devices; materials processing inside vacuum chambers; plume and surface interactions; contaminations, and molecular beams.
Nanoscale Semiconductor Heterostructures for Photovoltaic Energy Conversion
Principal Investigator/Dept.: Dr. Young Ho Park, Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and Dr. Igor Vasiliev, Department of Physics
Affiliation: New Mexico State University
Description: The use of solar power has been instrumental in the human exploration and development of space. To meet the increasing demands for electric power in manned and unmanned space exploration programs, it is necessary to develop new types of solar power conversion systems that utilize innovative device design and employ novel photovoltaic materials. The objective of the research is a fundamental study aimed at significant performance improvement of photovoltaic devices based on nanoscale semiconductor heterostructures. To accomplish this goal, researchers combine the state-of-the-art density functional and time-dependent density functional methods with parallel computational algorithms implemented on Beowulf computer clusters. The success of the project will extend the knowledge of the electronic and optical characteristics of these structures and lead to development of nanomaterial for photovoltaic cells that offer the potential for significant advances in space power generating capability.
Microwave Subsurface Imaging for Health Monitoring of Structures
Principal Investigator: Dr. Jun Won Kang and Dr. Craig Newtson
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Department of Civil Engineering
Description: This research develops a microwave-based subsurface imaging for health monitoring of aerospace structures using an electromagnetic full-waveform inversion method. This method utilizes microwaves to investigate inner structure and/or material composition of aerospace structures to detect flaws or damage such as cracks, voids, and delamination. Of particular interest is utilization of information embedded in the complete electromagnetic waveforms, typically recorded directly in the time-domain at transducers placed outside the probed structure. The objectives of the research are two-fold. First, a transient microwave scattering problem is to be solved in two- and three-dimensions using the finite element method to determine electric and magnetic fields. Secondly, a full-waveform inversion is to be performed using a PDE-constrained optimization framework to reconstruct the spatial variation of permittivity, permeability, and conductivity parameters inside a structure under investigation. Researchers are investigating the robustness of the developed inversion algorithm and studying the effects various inversion parameters have on the performance of the electromagnetic subsurface imaging.
Geomicrobiology of the Deep Subsurface
Principal Investigator: Dr. Thomas L. Kieft
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Biology
Description: This project will characterize the metabolic capabilities of microorganisms in deep groundwater environments, which serve as analogs for subsurface environments on other planets such as Mars. The objectives are (1) to characterize the microbial communities in the fracture waters of deep crustal environments in terms of their phylogenetic diversity and metabolic potential, (2) to compare the microbial communities from fracture waters at different depths and with different water chemistries, and (3) to examine the genes present in deep fracture water microbial communities for adaptations to extreme conditions, e.g., low organic carbon availability, The hypotheses to be tested are (1) that the novelty (evolutionary distance compared to known genes from surface environments) of genes from subsurface microorganisms increases with depth, and (2) that the occurrence of chemautotrophic organisms and genes for utilizing rockderived energy sources (e.g., genes encoding H2-oxidizing hydrogenases and CO2 fixation), increases with depth relative to genes encoding heterotrophic metabolism. Sampling will be carried out at multiple depths and times at the Sanford Lab in South Dakota, site of the proposed Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory.
A Novel Functional Composite Material for Radiation Protection for NASA Spacecraft and Astronauts
Principal Investigator: Dr. Ashok Kumar Ghosh
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico Institute of Mining Technology, Mechanical Engineering
Description: This research determines the radiation shielding characteristics of a novel MultiFunctional Composite Material (MFCM) that was developed for other characteristics under a grant from the Office of Naval Research. The material is exposed to radiation in a
“Tandem ion accelerator” at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The MFCM will be exposed to ion beam irradiation followed by characterization for hardness through Nano indentation and modulus through TEM analysis. On the basis of these tests, predictions will be made to determine how well the material would absorb radiation and provide shielding to astronauts and on-board electronics.
The Formation of Accretionary Lapilli at Lonar Crater India, and Meteor Crater Arizona
Principal Investigator: Dr. Horton Newsom, Dr. Shawn Wright and Roberta Beal
Affiliation/Dept.: University of New Mexico, Institute of Meteoritics
Description: This research is designed to determine the nature of the processes leading to the formation of accretionary lapilli, millimeter size impact melt or shocked rock fragments coated with accreted shell of ash size mineral grains, recently discovered by our group at Lonar Crater, India. The research provides an exciting opportunity to determine the formation mechanism of these materials in an impact crater plume. Accretionary lapilli are well known in volcanic settings and their formation involves the presence of water in the plumes created by the volcanic activity. However, preliminary examination of the numerous samples of lapilli from Lonar suggest that the fine grain mantling materials may be sintered on to the cores of the lapilli, suggesting extreme heat may be an important component of the lapilli formation in the impact setting. High-resolution element mapping of the contacts between the fine grain particles in the lapilli mantles of impact and volcanic lapilli will determine the nature of the process, cementation or sintering, causing the materials to adhere to each other in these different settings. Possible samples of similar lapilli from Meteor Crater in Arizona and volcanic lapilli will also be analyzed for comparison.
Assuring Information Availability in User-Interfaces: Hybrid System Observability for Aerospace Systems
Principal Investigator: Dr. Meeko Oishi
Affiliation/Dept.: University of New Mexico, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Description: Develop mathematical and computational techniques to identify problematic human-automation interaction at the design stage. Problems in human-automation interaction have contributed to major failures in expensive, high-risk, and safety-critical systems (including aircraft and aerospace systems).
Prediction of Separated Turbulent Flow Characteristics with Reynolds Stress Transport Models
Principal Investigator: Dr. Svetlana Poroseva
Affiliation/Dept.: University of New Mexico, Mechanical Engineering Department
Description: The current engineering practice in simulating turbulent flows is to utilize one- or two-equation turbulence models that solve a simplified set of the Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations. Such models allow computations of three-dimensional high-Reynolds-number flows to be conducted in a timely manner. However, these models lack the explicit description of many flow details and as a result, perform purely in predicting the behavior of turbulent separated flows in particular. As demonstrated during NASA- and world-wide-organized workshops, computationally expensive approaches to simulate turbulent flows such as Large Eddy Simulations and Detached Eddy Simulations also do not show much better predictive capability in high-Reynolds-number separated flows. In this research, the predictive capability of Reynolds Stress Transport (RST) models in such flows is investigated. Similar to one- and two-equation models, RST models solve a set of RANS equations, but the set also includes the equations for the Reynolds stresses. Thus, RST models explicitly take into consideration the interaction of velocity and pressure fields. As a flow separation is driven by the interaction of these two fields, RST models are expected to describe better the behavior of separated flows. Various models for physical processes that occur within a flow will be considered and their effect on the overall RST model predictive capability will be evaluated.
Development of an Autonomous Nitrogen Analyzer for Low Nutrient Natural Waters
Principal Investigator/Dept.: Dr. Michael Pullin, Department of Chemistry, Dr. Anders Jorgensen, Department of Electrical Engineering, and Dr. Penny Boston, Department of Environmental Sciences
Affiliation: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Description: This research creates an inexpensive, compact, field deployable machine that is able to measure the concentrations and variations in three major classes of nitrogen‐containing compounds in the environment. These species are important indicators and controllers of the existence, type, and magnitude of biological life. This device will be developed and tested at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and then deployed in an extreme environment, one of New Mexico’s unique cave ecosystems. This device will allow scientists to better understand the limits and function of microbial life in our universe and to detect life and/or human contamination in extraterrestrial environments. This sensor system will have a wide range of applicability, from monitoring water supplies during space travel to understanding nitrogen pollution and biogeochemical cycling in caves and streams, to monitoring groundwater and runoff for nitrate and ammonia contamination from industrial and agricultural operations.
Bioinorganic Highly Efficient Flexible Thermoelectric for Producing Energetic Fabrics
Principal Investigator: Dr. David Rockstraw
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Chemical & Materials Engineering
Description: Develop and test a bioinorganic (porphyrin-inorganic) flexible thermoelectric nanocomposite for highly efficient thermoelectric fabric applications. A highly efficient thermoelectric fabric could be one of the components of an astronaut’s space suite that could provide power to support life support sensors.
Effect of Radiation-Damage on Mechanical and Electric Properties of Materials
Principal Investigator: Dr. Igor Sevostianov
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Description: Electrons and protons in space can cause permanent damage in crystalline materials that may be especially crucial for materials used in electronic and optoelectronic devices since such damage can lead to operational failure. Successful operation in space requires understanding of the mechanisms that cause property deterioration and degradation as well as properly validated micromechanical modeling in order to predict whether materials will withstand the harsh environments encountered in space systems. The proposed research focuses on the effect of radiation damage on the mechanical performance of materials and their electric properties. The researcher is developing a qualitative micromechanical model that predicts changes in elastic and fracture–related properties of materials as well as their thermal and electric conductivities in dependence on the extent of radiation damage – dislocations, clusters of vacancies, radiation-induced foreign particles. The micromechanical model will be verified on experimental data available in literature.