High-Flying Ideas Bring Honors to JSC Inventors
Some of their ideas are about as far out as you can get, though they have down-to-earth applications. On June 21, 19 scientists and engineers will be honored at Johnson Space Center as JSC Inventors of 2001.
Their inventions focus on various disciplines and a variety of technologies. The common thread is that each relates, in one way or another, to human spaceflight. Several of the inventors are being recognized for more than one patent issued last year.
The June 21 luncheon at Johnson Space Center is called the 2002 JSC Inventor’s Luncheon. It is not open to the public.
Among inventors being honored is Michael K. Ewert, for a patent on a solar-powered refrigeration system. It uses internal thermal storage and innovative control techniques. “What’s different and new about ours is that we eliminated the need for a battery, by using thermal storage,” said Ewert, who holds a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and has been at JSC for about 12 years.
The idea initially was focused on providing cooling for a lunar base. “It could also be used in low Earth orbit and on Mars,” Ewert said. The refrigeration system automatically runs faster when the sun is higher and brighter.
Eliminating a battery and related equipment does away with a big maintenance item, Ewert said. He believes that mass production would make the solar-powered refrigerator more competitive price-wise. Indeed, one company is producing them now under license from NASA.
The company, SunDanze Refrigeration Inc. of Sparks, Nev., says the battery-free solar-powered refrigerator is designed for areas with at least five hours of sunlight a day. It can, the company says, keep contents cold for up to seven days during cloudy weather.
Ewert believes the technology could have wide application on Earth, because about 2 billion of the planet’s people do not have electricity. The Department of Energy is investigating the technology for refrigerated transport applications.
Chris Lovchik will be honored for a mechanical hand for the Robonaut project, the development of a machine with some of the capacities of a spacesuited astronaut. Robonaut looks a lot like a human upper torso, with two arms and a head in which cameras are mounted. It mimics the motions of an operator wearing instrumented garb some distance away.
The hand looks and moves a lot like a human hand. It should – part of the research on the hand involved Lovchik and other members of the team doing dissections on human hands in cooperation with local medical schools. Lovchik is a master watchmaker turned mechanical engineer. He restored and repaired classic timepieces to finance his studies at Wichita State University. He joined NASA in late 1995.
The concept, including the hand, was designed to help a spacewalking astronaut. It could find application in a range of areas on Earth, from working in hazardous environments to telemedicine.
G. Dickey Arndt will be honored for three patents: A method and device for sending microwave energy into heart tissue, a way and apparatus for treating atherosclerosis and a way to control two objects moving with respect to one another.
William C. Schneider also will be cited for three patents: A shroud to protect against fragments from catastrophic machinery failures, a spacecraft module with a structural core and an inflatable shell, and a portable, collapsible hyperbaric chamber. Horacio M. de la Fuente collaborated on two of those inventions.
Here are the inventions and the individuals being honored for them:
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