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TvU Funded Research Abstracts

Most recent projects listed first.


This SBIR Phase 1 program was designed to demonstrate the feasibility a small diameter fiber endoscope that can perform high temperature thermal imaging in a jet engine turbine and combustor. Task work centered on experimental demonstration of the critical physical principles of the diagnostic. The optical response of samples relevant to the turbine environment was tested at temperatures up to 1200°C. Extensive fiber imaging tests were performed and analyzed. Equipment needs for the prototype instrument were documented in detail and system characteristics such as spatial and temporal resolution were estimated based on experimental testing. Imaging access to turbomachinery and combustors during normal operation or even simple installation in a test rig would be an important advance in aircraft engine diagnosis. A prototype endoscope was designed for fabrication and on-site testing in a proposed Phase 2 program.

NASA SBIR Contract # NNX14CL26P, 20 June, 2014 through 19 December, 2014.


This SBIR Phase 1 program demonstrated the feasibility of large ceramic to metal joints/seals that can tolerate extreme environments. The immediate application of the work is bonded sapphire viewports for a Venus probe. TvU's commercial viewport products have demonstrated that the pressure and temperature constraints of the surface of Venus will be met, while the use of materials appropriate to the atmospheric conditions will satisfy the overall physical constraints. The ceramic bonding and viewport systems were shown to be adaptable to overall NASA use constraints. Task work detailed the design of the ceramic to metal joining process as well as a generic viewport design. A variety of oxide ceramic fixtures were fabricated and tested under a wide range of thermal and mechanical conditions. A specific prototype viewport was designed, fabricated and tested at Venus lander atmospheric conditions.

NASA SBIR Contract # NNX14CG16P, 20 June, 2014 through 19 December, 2014.


It is proposed to develop an dispersed-particle gas absorber (PGA) to collect CO2 from industrial and power generating combustion exhausts. Large numbers of evenly spaced, small particles falling through the exhaust gas stream are used to efficiently absorb and remove the CO2 from the gas. The particles absorb and store the CO2 in the particles in a water-soluble form that can be removed from the particles so that they can be reused in a continuous process. The particles are sized to fall at the proper speed to give an appropriate residence time, and the particle field is sized to absorb most of the CO2 in the warm gas. Phase 1 work will attempt to develop appropriate absorbent particles, and test particle dispersal, transport, and CO2 absorption in an experimental duct.

NSF Grant # IIP-0740346, $100,000, January 1, 2008 to July. 31, 2008.


The innovation proposed is the development of an acoustically enhanced Droplet Heat Exchanger (DHX). DHXs have high contact area, no interface losses, low pressure drop, and superior heat transfer characteristics. Adding high intensity sound to the DHX design causes the local gas motion generated by the sound to greatly enhance the droplet heat transfer, AND the sound causes any small droplets to be agglomerated into larger droplets. Acoustic enhancement of a DHX allows standard spray injectors to be used, making fabrication and installation inexpensive and simple. Resonant high intensity acoustical excitation provides a low-power means for providing a reduced-size, practical droplet heat exchanger. Efficient sound insulation eliminates external sound from the acoustically enhanced DHX. Many other applications are also possible, including droplet/particle reactors, humidifiers, and gas scrubbers.

NSF Grant # OII-0610518, $100,000, July 1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2006.


A high efficiency solar furnace core is being developed that greatly lessens the heat losses from the furnace core, either greatly reducing the amount of solar radiation needed to reach a specified temperature, or greatly increasing the temperature it can achieve. Specific program goals include: 1) Specification of the techniques to be used for generating the appropriate vacuum in the furnace and the vacuum level that must be achieved to provide insulation from gas convection, 2) Improved heat and solar radiation shields, 3) Improved crucible technology, and 4) Very high temperature furnace technology (2500°C).

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Contract # NNM05AA41C;, $70,000, Jan. 21, 2005 to July 25, 2005.

In-Flight Imaging Systems for Hypervelocity and Re-Entry Vehicles

A rugged, reliable, compact, standardized imaging system for hypervelocity and re-entry vehicles is being developed that uses sapphire windows, small imagers, and independent telemetry. Such a system is a novel creation that can tolerate the severe aerothermal environment associated with hypervelocity flight. The proposed system answers a critical need for enhanced situational awareness, performance analysis, and rapid anomaly resolution. Images of control surfaces, vehicle health, separation deployment, plume dynamics, combustion behavior, and many other vehicle properties provide a rapid, global assessment of the flows and control status of aerospace vehicles and propulsion systems using a standardized diagnostic package. The system design includes a window, window mounting system, camera, and independent telemetry system. Work includes computational aerothermal modeling, window, mount, camera, and telemetry design, preliminary hazards analysis, and feasibility/applications assessment. The imaging system will have broad application for NASA, DOD, and commercial aerospace vehicles.

NASA Langley Research Center P.O. # NNL04AB18P, $70,000, Jan. 16, 2004 to July 15, 2004.


A full prototype next-generation semi-flush flasher system is being developed for airport runway approach lighting. Current systems are many years old and inefficient; airports need inset flashers to add runway length and more efficiently use strictly limited land allocations.  An new inset flasher design is optimized both optically and electrically. A flasher fixture based on the Phase 1 prototype will be optimized, fabricated, and tested, forming a Phase 2 prototype to be commercialized.  Phase 1 program feasibility was demonstrated by comparing prototype performance with FAA specifications and current systems and by assessing the practicality and value of the other program innovations.  Thoughtventions Unlimited LLC, specializing and research and development, and Flight Light, Inc., a manufacturer of airport lighting systems are teaming up to bring state of the art optics and commercial practice to the program.  The active and immediate participation of an established commercial partner greatly aids practical development and speed the commercialization of this system, bringing earlier and more extensive needed improvements to airport lighting systems.

DOT/FAA Contract # DTRS57-00-C-10008, "An Optimized Semi-Flush Flasher," $100,000, Dec. 8, 1999 to November 1, 2000.
DOT/FAA Contract # DTRS57-01-C-10032, "An Optimized Semi-Flush Flasher," $750,000, Apr. 6, 2001 to April 5, 2004. Contract Mod/addition Feb 03 add 60k$ end 23 Jun 2004.


Vacuum windows that transmit high power microwave/RF energy are a necessary enabling technology for plasma heating for nuclear fusion.  Strengthened sapphire coupled with stress redistribution has led to a very large experimental increase in load capacity of sapphire windows compared with commercial sapphire. These results have been confirmed through modeling.  Greatly increased design strength translates into much thinner windows and greatly reduced microwave absorption, which leads to much greater power transmission capability.  This program provides a major improvement in the microwave window state of the art and is a significant contribution to fusion heating efforts in the US and for ITER.  A MW power level microwave window fixture was designed, modeled, fabricated, and tested.  Also as part of the STTR program a novel resonant ring testing apparatus is being developed and used for high power testing at ORNL using inexpensive, low power microwave drivers amplified in the ring.

Department of Energy, Contract # DE-FG02-95ER86038, "Low Loss Sapphire Windows for High Power Microwave Transmission," $600,000, 7 July, 1995, to 30 September, 1999.


A low mass, low power, low cost, high temperature prototype furnace is being developed for use in space.  Vacuum and radiation insulation coupled with low conductive support paths provide a means to almost eliminate heat losses from the furnace, allowing high temperatures to be achieved using low power.  A cylindrical configuration provides strength, access, and simplicity.  A novel vacuum pump uses the vacuum of space without losing radiation through the pumping port, and tolerates pulsed back pressure.  Core temperatures up to 1000°C can be achieved using less than 100 W of power.  Cooling is not needed and other support systems are minimal.  Direct optical access is provided by heat reflecting windows.  The furnace has the potential to be a centerpiece for research and development of materials processing in space.

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Contract # NAS8-99040, "Low Mass, Low Power, Low Cost Space Furnace," $70,000, Dec. 15, 1998 to June 14, 1999.


A manufacturing process is being developed for producing a stable high-temperature sapphire fiber cladding.  Phase 1 research has demonstrated an adherent, thin, and complete cladding that is stable and inert at high temperatures in oxidizing atmospheres.  Sapphire fibers are well suited to the task of sensing harsh environments, tolerating temperatures well above 1500°C and strong chemicals, but a high temperature, inert cladding for these fibers is not commercially available.  The details of the cladding process will be defined and optimized.  Testing and specification will include the measurement of basic mechanical properties and optical fiber properties at room temperature up to very high temperatures.  The detailed equipment and techniques required for production of clad sapphire fibers will be defined.  A prototype cladding manufacturing facility will be developed.

DOD, AFOSR Contract # F49620-98-C-0063, "High Temperature Sapphire Fiber Cladding," $100,000, Sept. 1, 1998, to Feb. 28, 1999.


This project seeks to develop a new binder that will allow powder metal injection molding (MIM) of reactive metal parts.  Parts made of reactive metals such as titanium are already extensively made using powder metallurgy, but many valuable metals are so reactive at high temperature that any currently available binder will react with and contaminate the part during MIM processing.  The development of the new binder will parallel that of other binders, modified by the conditions of its formation as well as its physical and debinding characteristics that fundamentally change its behavior as a binder.  Binder properties, the binder/powder ratio, the mixing procedure, the injection molding process, and the debinding process will be explored experimentally to optimize the process using titanium as the reactive metal powder.  Molding and debinding will be demonstrated and the green strength of the parts measured.  Some sintering will be attempted to show the effectiveness of the process.

NSF Grant # 9760106, "A Novel Binder for Reactive Metal Injection Molding," $100,000, Jan 1 to June 30, 1998.


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now being used for atmospheric sampling, but significant advances in aircraft performance must be achieved for sustained flight of large payloads at altitudes up to 30 km.  Thoughtventions is developing an aircraft droplet heat exchanger (DHX) to replace the standard metal finned circulating glycol/water heat exchanger.  A circulating liquid is sprayed into a ducted airstream to create a uniform dense droplet field that directly transfers heat from the engine cooling liquid to the atmosphere.  The droplets are captured at the end of the duct by inertial separation from a sharply turning flow.  A droplet heat exchanger efficiently rejects engine heat under widely varying conditions while greatly reducing heat exchanger mass and lowering aircraft drag.  Reducing heat exchanger mass increases aircraft altitude capability and together with decreased drag increases aircraft range.  Heat transfer and droplet collection can be maintained during speed and attitude changes, and the system tolerates rain, snow, and dust.

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Contract # NAS4-97018, "UAV Droplet Heat Exchanger," $70,000, 17 Mar. 1997, to 16 Sept. 1997.


Wall injection of solid hydrogen into the supersonic airstream of a combustor was investigated to provide ultrafast distributed fuel mixing for a practical large scramjet engine NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.  Modeling of a solid hydrogen particle ablating in a Mach 3 flow was done to understand the physics of the problem, to predict particle lifetime, and to define the dependence of particle lifetime on the parameters of the problem.  Solid hydrogen fueling feasibility was studied to assure that the transport and injection of a particle flow is practical in an engineering sense.  Studies indicated that it is practical to pump and inject the solid as a 4 K Solid H2 liquid He with a very low helium fraction; the added helium will not decrease combustion efficiency.  High speed single hydrogen pellet injection into an inert gas was performed experimentally to examine actual ablation and verify modeling predictions.  The proposed solid hydrogen fueling would improve fuel distribution and mixing well beyond present concepts, eliminate injector drag, and take advantage of the more standard benefits of a higher fuel density.  The data and analysis from modeling, engineering studies, and the pellet experiments were combined to create a strong logical argument that solid hydrogen scramjet fueling is feasible.

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Contract # NAS8-40693, "Solid Hydrogen Fueling of a Air Breathing Supersonic Combustor," $70,000, 11 Jan. 1996, to 10 July 1996.


Phase 1 work experimentally demonstrated fiber optic imaging inside a furnace at over 1000°C, for the NASA Lewis Research Center.  The innovation of this work is the use of a high temperature imaging fiber optic system as a means for non-intrusive diagnosis of high temperature and high pressure engine components and combustion systems, high temperature process development, and as a research tool for system development.  Current fiber optic imaging systems provide invaluable access for remote sensing in many applications but are limited in temperature range.  The development of high quality sapphire fiber optics under another NASA program has led to the possibility of fiber optic imaging at temperatures in excess of 1000°C.  A sapphire fiber optic video system was designed, fabricated and tested for basic performance in a furnace in a successful feasibility demonstration.

NASA Lewis Research Center, Contract # NAS3-27568, "High Temperature Fiber Optic Imaging Apparatus," $70,000, 27 Dec. 1994, to 26 June 1995.


This project used auxiliary optical heating and optical diagnostics to control crystal growth in a transparent furnace for the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.  High temperature fiber optics were used to deposit local radiant heat into the crystallizing material.  By properly distributing the optical fibers, heat was added to the crystal material through the ampoule, such that the magnitude and spatial pattern of the heating could be controlled and adjusted during crystal growth.  This was done in the context of a temperature gradient imposed by standard heating coils.  Phase 1 successfully demonstrated feasibility of the concept in a transparent furnace.  This system is ideal for the real time control of microgravity crystal growth where gravity driven convection is not present and subtle effects dominate the growth process.  These techniques may have many important commercial applications in both the growth of specific crystals and processing capabilities.

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Contract # NAS8-40546, "Controlled Crystal Growth Using Auxiliary Optical Heating and Optical Diagnostics," $69,317, 15 Dec. 1994, to 15 June 1995.


Advanced techniques for heat containment have been applied in this NASA Lewis Research Center program to build a transparent furnace operating at 1200°C.  Full optical access to furnace applications is needed to diagnose the subtleties of high temperature processes under microgravity conditions, as well as for future applications in process control in space and on earth. Transparent furnaces can be used for research in crystal growth, sintering, metal joining, and annealing, high temperature materials properties, and fluid behavior.  There are many specific applications in these areas for both NASA and commercial interests.  Transparent furnace technology will be a key space station capability, allowing astronauts to interactively perform materials processing experiments in microgravity.  The development of a high temperature transparent furnace creates many new opportunities for high temperature material processing research and process control applications.  The Phase 2 program will give NASA important new capabilities for advances in materials processing science, and is expected to have broad commercial potential.  The furnace was exhibited at the NASA Technology 2007 show in Boston, September 22-24, 1997, and then delivered to NASA Lewis for their research.  The furnace is being offered as a commercial product by TvU.

NASA Lewis Research Center, Contract # NAS3-27664, "High Temperature Transparent Furnace Development,"  $669,995, 27 Dec. 1993, to 30 September, 1997.


Feasibility research for the creation of a solid hydrogen pellet combustion apparatus was developed, together with an analysis of pellet behavior and scale-up issues for a full scale propulsion system based on a mixture of a high energy density material (HEDM) in solid hydrogen.  A detailed design of a solid hydrogen pellet injector, a detailed design of a pulse combustor to be used for combustion of these pellets, a preliminary model of pellet ablation, techniques for rapid hydrogen gas to solid condensation, techniques for high mass flux pumping of solid hydrogen, and a compilation of the engineering properties of solid hydrogen were developed.  An experimental program was developed to fuel a pulse combustor with solid hydrogen pellets that would allow studies of both the combustion behavior of the solid hydrogen and the material itself.

USAF Phillips Laboratory, Contract # F04611-93-C-0086, "Prototype Cryogenic Solid Hydrogen Storage and Pellet Injection," $74,995, 30 June to 30 Dec. 1993.

Thoughtventions Unlimited LLC
40 Nutmeg Lane
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Tel: (860) 657-9014
Fax: (860) 657-2666
E-Mail: thought@tvu.com


Last updated: July 2015