2018 NASA EPSCOR RID PROJECTS
Energetic and Chemical Impacts of Lightning in the Earth System Inferred from Satellite Data and Computer Simulations
Principal Investigator: Dr. Caitano da Silva
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Physics
NASA Collaborator/NASA Center: William Koshak, Physical Scientist, Earth Science Branch/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center
Description: Lightning plays an important role in the atmospheric system: thunderstorms and lightning are the electrical current source for the global electric circuit, lightning is the main non-anthropogenic source of nitrogen oxide in the troposphere, lightning is an essential climate variable, being both a symptom and a cause of climate change.
The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) is the proper instrument to estimate the impacts of lightning in our planet. GLM is the first lightning detection tool flown in geostationary orbit. It continuously detects lightning optical signals escaping the cloud tops of storms all over the Americas. GLM measures energy emitted at a specific wavelength of the visible spectrum. Substantial theoretical effort is required to translate this quantity into total energetic and chemical impact. In this project, we aim to develop research infrastructure at New Mexico Tech (NMT) to undertake this challenge and establish a collaboration between NMT and the GLM science team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. We propose to develop a physics-based simulation tool to quantify the relationship between optical light measured by GLM and the total energy deposited by lightning in the atmosphere.
Room Temperature Solid Polymer Electrolytes for Oxygen Generation on Mars
Principal Investigator: Dr. Reza Foudazi
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Chemical & Materials Engineering
NASA Collaborator/NASA Center: William C. West/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Description: The atmosphere of Mars contains 95.3% carbon dioxide (CO2) and can be mined to produce propellant and life support consumables, such as oxygen, fuel, and water for long-term human exploration of Mars. NASA has developed technologies to convert the CO2 of Mars atmosphere into oxygen. However, the current state of the art for O2 generation requires high temperature and power usage. In this project, a solid polymer electrolyte (SPE) will be used instead of solid oxides to allow the CO2 electrolyzer to operate at room temperature (~25 ºC). One of the major challenges in using the SPEs is their low ionic conductivity on the order of 10-7 S/cm at ambient temperature that limits their practical applications. SPEs made through incorporation of ionic liquids (ILs) into the conducting domains of block copolymers have an enhanced ionic conductivity. Additionally, ILs have the potential to act as both CO2 absorbers and reduction catalysts, effectively decreasing the required energy to utilize CO2. However, ILs possess delocalized charges and are composed of ionic species that are generally large and asymmetric. These characteristics hinder the formation of well-ordered ionic domains from block copolymer/IL systems, which reduces their conductivity. We propose that this challenge can be addressed in SPEs produced through the polymerization of Lytropic liquid crystals of ternary mixtures of monomer, IL, and amphiphilic block copolymers. The proposed project will focus on designing SPEs with different sizes and shapes of ordered continuous nanochannels to maximize the decoupling of ionic conductivity and mechanical strength.
Development of Research Environment for Solar-Assisted Autonomous Soaring
Principal Investigator: Dr. Andreas Gross
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
NASA Collaborator/NASA Center: Nelson Brown, Aerospace Engineer, Dynamics & Controls Branch/NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
Description: By extracting energy from rising currents of hot air (thermal soaring) the flight time of unmanned aerial systems can be extended. Similarly, wing-mounted solar cells that convert solar radiation into electrical energy can sustain or prolong the flight. The combination of both approaches promises significant benefits such as longer on-course cruise times, heavier payloads, and a way to get around flight altitude restrictions that limit the autonomous soaring capability. The proposed research environment for solar-assisted autonomous soaring will lay the groundwork for successful and competitive research at NMSU in this area and in autonomous systems in general. Specific tasks that will be accomplished are the instrumentation of an existing solar-powered aircraft and the implementation of a point-mass model based simulation environment for the development and testing of autonomous soaring and path planning algorithms. The instrumentation will include an autopilot, sensors and telemetry. Possibilities for modifying the autopilot source code will be explored. The simulation environment will feature models for thermal updrafts, wind, and terrain.
Predictive Guidance and Control for Free-Flying Robots in a Microgravity Environment
Principal Investigator: Dr. Hyeongjun Park
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
NASA Collaborator/NASA Center: Jose Benavides, SPHERES/Astrobee Facility Project Manager/NASA Ames Research Center
Description: Free-flying robots have been developed to aid the astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) and to provide a flexible platform for future research topics including motion control, advanced mobility hardware. robotic manipulation, and human-robot interaction. The robots float freely in the micro-gravity environment of the ISS. This scenario is a good example for human-robot interaction during long-term space exploration missions. Collision avoidance of the free-flying robots is an important and challenging task to avoid situations where the astronauts may get injured or the ISS structure gets damaged by the robots. Another challenge in motion control is to achieve fast, precise, and robust attitude control for robots with moving payloads such as robotic manipulators. Advanced control algorithms are beneficial to deal with both challenges. This project aims at developing and validating optimization-based guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) strategies that can achieve real-time collision avoidance maneuvers for the free-flying robots. The GN&C algorithms ‘ii-ill be based on nonlinear model predictive control considering moving obstacles such as other free-flying robots and astronauts. Equally important, additional mobility hardware and algorithms for the fast and precise attitude control of the robots will be investigated. As a representative problem for developing a mobility hardware, the handling of momentum exchange by a reaction-wheel-assembly with a robot that is equipped with a manipulator arm will be investigated.
A Numerical and Experimental Approach to Safe Operation of Unmanned Aerial Systems in Challenging Environments with Unsteady Airwakes
Principal Investigator: Dr. Liang Sun
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Mechanical Engineering
NASA Collaborator/NASA Center: Corey Ippolito, NASA Safe Autonomous Flight Environment Project Lead/NASA Ames Research Center
Description: As small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) are becoming game changers in a variety of military and civilian operations, NASA has been conducting in-house and collaborative research to establish infrastructure that enables the UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system in low-altitude national airspace. The safe and autonomous operation of UASs in dynamic cluttered environments (e.g., an urban landscape where GPS signal receptions would be degraded) is extremely challenging because it demands advanced guidance and control algorithms with reliable, accurate, and fast sensor data processing. Another complication comes from unmeasured and unmodeled but vital environmental factors, such as the complex air flow in close vicinity of buildings and neighboring UASs. A potential solution to alleviation of traffic congestion in low-altitude aerospace is to designate aerospace corridors shared among UASs. An enabling function is the control systems for safe and stable formation flight of UAS. In this proposed research project, we aim at seeking a solution to safely operate collaborating UASs in the low-altitude airspace of an urban landscape. The primary environmental challenges of focus include airwakes from both neighboring UASs and buildings, and degraded GPS signals in an urban area. We propose to explore three questions in this research project: (1) how the airwake-vortex induced by a building and a neighboring sUAS can be modeled, estimated, and forecasted to guarantee a safe flight; (2) what is an optimal formation of the sUASs give the acquired airwake condition; (3) how a sUAS can maintain a desired formation in a GPS-degraded environment.
Theoretical Prediction of Novel Iso-coordinated Molecules of Potential Importance for the Atmospheric Chemistry
Principal Investigator: Dr. Marat Talipov
Affiliation/Dept.: New Mexico State University, Chemistry & Biochemistry
NASA Collaborator/NASA Center: Qing Liang, Research Physical Scientist, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics LAboratory/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Description: Discovery and characterization of novel gas-phase molecular entities is of central importance for the chemistry of atmospheric processes. In this research proposal, we aim to test the hypothesis that a large number of such species are awaiting to be discovered because of the currently overlooked type of chemical bonding. We recently demonstrated on the case of HO—ON [J. Phys. Chem. A, 2013, 117, 679; Science, 2013, 342, 1354] that weak interactions between unpaired electrons on spatially distant atoms (such interactions could be called long-bonding, or through-lone-pair, or superexchange interactions) can provide sufficient stabilization for the formation of novel molecules. Accordingly, in this proposal we aim to target the following research objectives: (1) explore the chemical space to computationally predict the existence of novel molecules of potential importance for atmospheric and photochemical reactions, (2) compute the spectroscopic properties of such molecules to aid in their future experimental detection, (3) investigate the basic chemical properties of such molecules.