Tracy Young July 6, 2004
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
KSC Release No. 50-04
NASA Engineer Patents Three Insulation Test Methods
James E. Fesmire, NASA lead engineer for the Cryogenics Testbed here, recently acquired three patents for testing thermal insulation materials for cryogenic systems. All the methods were developed at KSC.
The Multi-purpose Thermal Insulation Test Apparatus tests insulation materials in cylindrical and multi-layer forms. It is designed to provide a calibrated thermal performance value for the total insulation system under cryogenic-vacuum conditions.
The Apparatus and Method for Thermal Performance Testing of Pipelines and Piping Systems evaluates the exact thermal performance aspects of cryogenic piping systems. It uses two cold boxes that eliminate any heat transfer from the ends of the piping, to determine accurate measurements of heat leak rates from the sides of the piping segment.
The Methods of Testing Thermal Insulation and Association Test Apparatus, also called Cryostat-1, provides absolute thermal performance values of cryogenic insulation systems under real-world conditions. Cryogenic liquid is supplied to a test chamber and two guard chambers, and temperatures are sensed within the vacuum chamber to test aerogels, foams or other materials.
The new technologies were proven through nearly 1,000 tests of more than 100 different material systems. The research team of the Cryogenics Testbed offers testing and support for a number of programs and initiatives for NASA and commercial customers.
The Cryostat-1 machine can detect the absolute heat leakage rates through materials under the full range of vacuum conditions, according to Fesmire and co-inventor Dr. Stan Augustynowicz, chief scientist with Sierra Lobo Inc. in Milan, Ohio. "This approach sets us apart from other labs," said Fesmire.
Cryogenics is an energy-intensive field and thermal insulation conserves energy. As technology develops, insulation systems are reaching the highest standards of performance and efficiency. According to Fesmire, the future for industry and space exploration requires more efficient thermal insulation systems for low-temperature applications.
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