The pre-recorded talks and posters on this page showcase the work of students who received NC Space Grant research funding for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. The menu at right provides links to pre-recorded talks and posters by other funded students on additional topics.

Emma Bartlett 

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Undergraduate Research Scholar
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate Student (Senior), Mechanical Engineering

Deployment of Dual Matrix Composite Origami Structures in Zero Gravity 

Understanding the deployment characteristic of collapsible, dual matrix, carbon fiber origami structures in zero gravity is needed to prove their validity for space applications. The carbon fiber structures feature two matrices, epoxy for rigid panels sections and silicone for bending regions. When the origami structure is folded, the flexible silicone regions create internal strain energy that causes the structure to self-deploy. The hex flasher model used for this composite origami testing has the ability to expand from a 3 inch diameter to 24 inches in under 0.5 seconds. In order to capture the deployment dynamics of these structures, high-speed motion tracking video and 6DOF data will be taken during the composites’ expansion. Thirty composites will be tested in various thermal conditions, testing a mixture of ambient, hot, and cold deployments. This is a vital testing factor for materials with applications in space due to the wide range of temperatures that can be observed. By additionally soaking composites in a heated chamber for 24 hours prior to being deployed, long term storage can be simulated. Zero gravity flights testing other composite structures developed at NCSU have been conducted in 2018 and 2019. However, the flights in May 2021 will be the maiden zero gravity flight for the dual matrix composite origami structures. Post flight data will be analyzed and processed after each flight and will be further investigated over summer 2021.

Advisor: Mark Pankow

Charles Cervi

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Undergraduate Research Scholar
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate Student (Senior), Mechanical Engineering

Characterizing the Deployment of Composite Origami Panels in Zero Gravity 

A method to test composite origami structures in zero gravity while capturing their deployment characteristics is needed to evaluate the novel dual matrix composite origami structure developed in the BLAST Lab at North Carolina State University. A flight “rig” was designed to be mounted inside a plane to perform the micro gravity experiments. The rig encloses and houses the deployment mechanism used to release the composites, temperature regulated chambers for storage before deployment, camera equipment to capture deployment characteristics and also support electronics and computer systems. The temperature chambers will be held at three respective temperatures to determine the effects of temperature on deployment characteristics. To simulate long term storage and its effect on deployment, composites will be held at an elevated temperature for 24 hours prior to being loaded on the plane and deployed. The motion of the composites will be captured by an array of Optitrack Flex 13 cameras positioned in a triangular pattern on the top of the flight rig. The motion capture cameras will be used to track individual markers on the surface of the composite as it deploys. This data will be used to determine deployment speed, post deployment flutter, as well as other metrics. The flight rig and assisting mechanisms will be completed in early spring 2021 before the planed flights in May. Data collected during these flights will be processed and evaluated after returning to NCSU.

Faculty Advisor: Mark Pankow

Emily Duan

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellow
North Carolina State University
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Mechanical Engineering

Design of Pennate Topology Artificial Muscle Bundles Under Spatial Constraints 

Astronauts experience microgravity during their time in space which can result in muscle and bone atrophy due to loss of plasma. The direct impact of plasma loss is a decreased amount of blood capable of delivering oxygen to the rest of the body, which can lead to loss of muscle strength. Astronauts must dedicate several hours per day of stationary exercise to combat muscle loss and bone atrophy, thus limiting the time available for other mission activities. It is of great interest to develop a soft wearable device that would allow astronauts to experience Earth-like joint loads in microgravity, thereby better maintaining muscle and bone health and decreasing the amount of time that must be devoted to exercise. McKibben fluidic artificial muscles (FAMs) may be well suited for this application due to their high force-to-weight ratio, inherent flexibility, and muscle-like force-contraction behavior. To understand how bundles of FAMs can be used to actuate compliant wearable devices while minimizing bulk and weight, an investigation on the mechanics and performance implications of FAM topology configurations is needed. 

In this study, I investigate the design of pennate topology artificial muscle bundles under spatial and operating constraints. Observations from natural muscles of equivalent cross-sectional area have indicated a pennate muscle configuration can achieve higher output forces as compared to the parallel muscle configuration due to larger physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA). However, results from this study revealed PCSA and packing factor are not directly proportional to muscle output force for all bipennate muscle configurations. The combination of fiber contraction and rotation behavior are key factors contributing to situations where bipennate muscle configurations can be more advantageous as compared to parallel muscle configurations. The findings are used to provide insights on optimizing artificial muscle topologies and select artificial muscle parameters for simulating an astronaut operating task.

Advisor: Matthew Bryant

Auston Gray

NASA Internship Award at Langley Research Center – Summer 2020
North Carolina State University
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Aerospace Engineering

Validating a Passive, Wireless Temperature Sensor under High-Temperature Environments 

To aid Engine Health Monitoring (EHM) and measurement in other harsh, high-temperature environments, passive, wireless sensors are necessary. Currently, sensors are used in low-temperature environments but are not suitable for harsh environments. Therefore, a novel passive, wireless sensor was developed using microstrip patch antenna (MPA) technology and a high-temperature substrate material. This sensor’s performance is still being validated, but current results reveal the ability to measure temperature with passive, wireless sensor technology, as well as use of this sensor to observe temperatures up to 1000°C. Future work will improve sensor performance and expand this technology to measure other environmental variables. 

Prior to this research, a novel passive, wireless temperature sensor was fabricated using a microstrip patch antenna (MPA) design and a polymer-derived ceramic (PDC) substrate material to withstand harsh, high-temperature environments. A Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) and horn antenna were used to interrogate the sensor. By placing the sensor inside a box furnace and observing changes in the sensor’s resonant frequency, the resonant frequency was correlated with temperature and used to measure temperature in later trials, demonstrating the sensor’s viability to record temperatures within harsh, high-temperature environments. 

Although research is still underway to validate the performance and repeatability of the novel passive, wireless sensor in measuring temperature of harsh, high-temperature environments, research has demonstrated the reliability of this sensing method with commercial (FR-4) sensors at room temperature and an observed dependence of the sensor resonant frequency as temperature is varied. Further research will study the microstrip patch antenna design in relation to theory as well as improving the repeatability and accuracy with the sensor created. Further progress is needed relating to this sensor design, but current results reveal the ability of this novel technology to effectively measure temperature and other parameters within harsh, high-temperature environments currently unable to be studied.

Faculty Advisor: Fuh-Gwo Yuan

Rebecca Hart 

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Undergraduate Research Scholar
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate Student (Junior), Mechanical Engineering

Soft Connection Components for Fluidic Artificial Muscle Actuators 

McKibben artificial muscles are built by placing a soft tubing inside of a mesh. The mesh causes all movement to be in the axial direction when the tube is pressurized. These muscles have a unique characteristic of allowing more flexibility than their rigid counterparts as well as a weight reduction of the system. A bundle of these wearable artificial muscles would help combat muscle atrophy experienced by astronauts during space travel and during rehabilitation upon return to earth. 

For this project, a computer model was generated which would demonstrate different configurations of the muscles. This model was used to perform analysis and investigate manufacturing techniques. Accurately modeling the muscles opens the door to more efficiently analyzing muscle configurations and new fabrication methods such as 3D printing the muscle using a flexible material. It is desirable to find ways to create an entirely flexible assembly to improve range of motion and comfort for the user. Various models were created and shared within the lab, analysis using ANSYS was begun in parallel to this project, and a 3D print of the model was created using a rigid material to demonstrate proof of concept.

Advisor: Matthew Bryant

Richard Hollenbach 

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellow
Duke University
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Mechanical Engineering

UNSTEADY PRESSURES ANALYSIS OF A 3-STAGE TURBINE: SEARCHING FOR NONSYNCHRONOUS VIBRATIONS AND LOCK-IN 

When an unsteady aerodynamic instability nears a natural mode of a rigid body, the phenomenon known as Nonsynchronous Vibrations (NSV) can occur. These vibrations cause large amplitude oscillations and ultimately blade failure in jet engines and steam turbines; however, the underlying flow physics are much less understood compared to other aeroelastic phenomenon such as flutter or forced response. When the buffeting frequency of the flow around a body such as a blade nears its structural natural frequency, the flow frequency merges to the natural frequency in a phenomenon known as “lock-in”. Within this “lock-in” region, there is only one frequency, while outside of it there are two. Although this region of “lock-in” is well documented both experimentally and computationally, the pressure content associated with this phenomenon have not been fully understood. Using the geometry for a 3-stage turbine rig, computational simulations are performed to study the unsteady pressure frequency content on the rotors and stators. A Fast-Fourier Transform is performed on the time-series pressure measurements to analyze frequency domain pressure content. These frequencies are determined to be different than the blade passing frequency, while they are also located far away from the traditional flutter and forced response frequencies, so they must be related to Nonsynchronous Vibrations. At these NSV frequencies, the amplitude and behavior of the steady pressures provides insight into the flow physics previously not understood.

Faculty Advisor: Robert Kielb

Justin Morales

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellow
North Carolina State University
Graduate Student (Masters), Mechanical Engineering

Characterizing the Deployment of Composite Origami Panels in Zero Gravity 

A method to test composite origami structures in zero gravity while capturing their deployment characteristics is needed to evaluate the novel dual matrix composite origami structure developed in the BLAST Lab at North Carolina State University. A flight “rig” was designed to be mounted inside a plane to perform the micro gravity experiments. The rig encloses and houses the deployment mechanism used to release the composites, temperature regulated chambers for storage before deployment, camera equipment to capture deployment characteristics and also support electronics and computer systems. The temperature chambers will be held at three respective temperatures to determine the effects of temperature on deployment characteristics. To simulate long term storage and its effect on deployment, composites will be held at an elevated temperature for 24 hours prior to being loaded on the plane and deployed. The motion of the composites will be captured by an array of Optitrack Flex 13 cameras positioned in a triangular pattern on the top of the flight rig. The motion capture cameras will be used to track individual markers on the surface of the composite as it deploys. This data will be used to determine deployment speed, post deployment flutter, as well as other metrics. The flight rig and assisting mechanisms will be completed in early spring 2021 before the planed flights in May. Data collected during these flights will be processed and evaluated after returning to NCSU.

Advisor: Mark Pankow

Hannah Oliver

NASA Academy at Langley Research Center Award – Summer 2020
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate Student (Senior), Aerospace Engineering

Terrestrial Unmanned Roving Vertical Take-off and Landing (TURVTOL

A multi-modal vehicle with the ability to drive and fly is proven essential in scenarios where range and payload capacity are necessary over hazardous terrain. Such operations include but are not limited to scientific, military and disaster relief applications. Expanding mission capabilities of a ground vehicle by allowing it to fly short distances is an area of research that is relatively under-developed. The capability of such a vehicle to navigate autonomously, recharge using solar energy and maintain survivability in harsh environments is desired. With the help of the North Carolina Space Grant, the 2020 NASA Academy at Langley has developed a first iteration conceptual design of such a vehicle. The Terrestrial Unmanned Roving Vertical Take-off and Landing (TURVTOL) vehicle utilizes a novel flight/drive system configuration that enables the vehicle to drive efficiently over most terrain types and “hop” over terrain traditionally impassible by most land vehicles. Design features allow TURVTOL to operate without a human-in-the-loop for days on end in extreme environments. This design has proven to be feasible through analyses confined to simulated environments due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Advisor: Elizabeth Ward, NASA Langley

Meredith Patterson 

NASA Internship Award at Langley Research Center – Summer 2020
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate Student (Junior), Aerospace Engineering

NASA Langley Intern – Positive Displacement Fluidized Bed Project

As part of the, Hypersonic Airbreathing Propulsion Branch at NASA Langley Research Center, I worked to develop a powdered magnesium fuel delivery system for Scramjets to be used in the Martian atmosphere. This fuel delivery system would be largely beneficial for missions that require long-range surface mobility and/or planetary ascent without large amounts of energy/infrastructure. NASA can reduce Mars mission mass/infrastructure by utilizing on-site resources such as Mars’s CO2 rich atmosphere as an oxidizer in the propulsion/combustion process. A great fuel to work in a CO2 atmosphere is powdered magnesium. This presents the challenge of creating a system that can easily deliver powdered fuel to an airbreathing engine. Throughout the internship, my co-intern and I worked with a powdered fuel delivery testing system called the Positive Displacement Fluidized Bed (PDFB). The internship was adapted to be online, so I continued work on the PDFB by working with a simulated version of the testing system through Generalized Fluid System Simulation Program (GFSSP). Through GFSSP, I was able to create an almost identical system to the PDFB and start running simulations to see what types of tests would be most beneficial to run on the system when interns return to on-site data collection with the PDFB. By the end of the internship, my understanding of hypersonics and fluids had grown immensely and my co-intern and I had developed a new, optimized design for future implementation into the PDFB.

Advisor: Neal E Hass, NASA Langley

Eunice Seo 

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Undergraduate Research Scholar
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate Student (Senior), Mechanical Engineering

Boron Nitride Nanotube Metal Matrix Composites for On-orbit and On-surface Services in Extreme Space Environment 

Lunar exploration presents unique challenges due to extreme space environment conditions: extreme radiation exposure, temperatures ranging from -230 to +120°C, abrasive lunar dust in microgravity, and high vacuum environment [1]. For example, vehicles, tools, instruments, and habitats require protection from this extreme space environment. Durable state-of-the-art materials include graphite/epoxy composites, lightweight metal alloys, and more recently, metal matrix composites (MMC). MMCs provide the potential for novel combinations of materials with bulk properties exceeding those of current material options. This project investigates a thermally sprayed MMC coating, composed of aluminum or titanium alloy, and reinforced by boron nitride nanotubes (BNNT). BNNT, structurally comparable to carbon nanotubes (CNT), has excellent material properties including lightweight, high strength and stiffness, thermal stability (up to 1200°C in the air), electrical insulation, corrosion resistance, and radiation shielding [2]. 

The manufacturing process for BNNT-MMC coatings is determined to be thermal spray, a broad field of manufacturing which involves melting and propelling a material to be solidified on a substrate. The types of thermal spray considered were atmospheric plasma spray (APS), very low-pressure plasma spray (VLPPS), vacuum plasma spray (VPS), hypervelocity oxygen-fuel (HVOF) spray, cold spray, and aerosol deposition (AD). Through a literature review, it was determined that VPS and cold spray were the most promising methods to produce a highly-dense, high-quality, coating. 

Thermal spray is ideally conducted using feedstock materials that have spherical morphology with high density, low inter-particle cohesion, and can be fed through the spray torch at a low feed rate. BNNT poses a challenge due to its high-aspect-ratio morphology, low density, high inter-particle cohesion, and high feed rate [3]. The next step is to optimize the preparation of BNNT-MMC feedstock to improve its morphology and dispersion. 

Advisor: Cheol Park, NASA Langley

Kelly Ann Smith, Logan Bilich and Andrew Wegener 

NC Space Grant/ Hypersizer Internship Awards – Summer 2020 
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate (Seniors), Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 

Collier Research Summer Internship 

Logan and Andrew performed stress analysis and sizing of metal and composite space structures, and worked directly with industry customers to design and analyze real structures. They used relevant industry-standard analysis software (e.g. FEMAP, NASTRAN, Abaqus, Optistruct, HyperSizer, HyperX, Altair) to implement industry-standard analysis methods from NACA, Bruhn, etc. They also contributed to software design by providing feedback on usability and when required, perform testing. Kelly Ann acted as a go-between for the software and engineering side by writing analysis plugins for the HyperSizer software through the development of methods documents from customers.

Advisor: James Ainsworth, Collier Research Corporation

Jack van Welzen 

NIA/NASA Internship Award at Langley Research Center – Summer 2020
North Carolina State University
Undergraduate Student (Senior), Mechanical Engineering

Comparison of Image Correlation Algorithms for Hidden Damage Laser Speckle Photometry 

This presentation explores laser speckle photometry (LSP), a recent optical-based image analysis tool, as a method for detecting barely visible impact damage (BVID) in composite structures. This non-contact optical-based method provides the potential for large-scale scanning of aircrafts in real time to unearth BVID which would typically go unnoticed during routine inspections. In exploring LSP, various image correlation algorithms were tested to determine the most effective. The typical error-based correlation algorithm of mean squared error (MSE) was compared to two more advanced algorithms, normalized cross-correlation (NCC) and structural similarity (SSIM) index. Thermal LSP was conducted on a composite honeycomb panel with a surface dent of maximum depth 0.5 mm. The underlying damage was around 30 mm in diameter. When compared to the baseline experiments conducted using C-Scan and a laser Doppler vibrometer (LDV), it was found that only with limited cooling (around 0.5 seconds) did the algorithms produce consistently accurate results. Among the three imaging conditions, NCC and certain configurations of SSIM provided results that aligned the best with the baselines. Upon extended cooling and as the panel approached steady state, LSP failed regardless of correlation algorithm used. Nevertheless, LSP shows great promise as a real-time non-destructive inspection tool not only in the aerospace industry but also in industries such as additive manufacturing where defects are prevalent.

Faculty Advisor: Fuh-Gwo Yuan

Evan Youngberg 

NASA Internship Award at Langley Research Center – Summer 2020
North Carolina State University
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Mechanical Engineering

Validation of an Automatic Segmentation Procedure for Kink Bands Imaged with Synchrotron Radiation Computed Tomography Scans 

A common mode of failure for composite plies subject to longitudinal compression is fiber kinking. Synchrotron radiation computed tomography (SRCT) was used in a previous study to investigate the formation of fiber kinks in 3-D. For these experiments, notched cross-ply laminates were loaded in compression, resulting in fiber damage that formed several kink bands. To investigate the morphology of the kink bands, an automated segmentation procedure was developed in MATLAB. This automated procedure used the Sobel edge detection filter to identify the kink band in each image of an image stack generated from the SRCT. This allowed the creation of 3-D figures to visualize the kink band and its morphology. Additionally, one of the kink bands was segmented with a manual process. During the current study, this manual segmentation data was used to validate the automatic segmentation results. Comparisons were made of the project kink area found by the two methods. The automatic segmentation process was found to have less than a 10% difference from the manual process. Additionally, about 75% of this difference can be accounted for by segmentation errors at the ply interface, which was an expected limitation of the automatic segmentation procedure. Therefore, the results of this validation study give confidence in the automatic segmentation procedure as an accurate method of quantifying kink band sizes.

Advisor: Andrew Bergan, NASA Langley

Alexander Zajda 

2020-2021 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellow
Duke University
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Phase Change Thermal Storage for Extraterrestrial Exploration, Targeting Energy Optimization and Emergency Survivability 

Solar thermal energy offers a number of benefits that set it apart from other sustainable energy sources used for space missions. These include efficient solar energy capture, safe materials, adaptability to remote locations, and collocation with end use. Maximizing the benefit depends on a well-designed thermal energy storage system that manages the cycle of sunlight, the occurrence of atmospheric disturbances, and variations in demand. 

There are two methods used to store thermal energy in renewable energy applications such as solar thermal energy: sensible heating, involving temperature rise without phase change; and latent heating, in which energy is absorbed by a Phase Change Material (PCM) during melting (and returned during solidification) at or near a constant temperature.

Solar thermal material optimization research in literature is focused on maximizing solar power efficiency on earth. The purpose of the space grant study was to expand both the fundamental and practical understanding of extraterrestrial Latent Heat Thermal Energy Storage System (LHTESS) performance by extending the modeling of melting and solidification of LHTESS’s under Martian atmospheric conditions. 

COMSOL’s robust heat transfer library was used for the bulk of numerical calculations. Optimal real-world materials were identified for a given set of Martian atmospheric and gravitational conditions. To expound upon these results, the optimum collector geometry was identified, leading to an actionable energy storage blueprint that lays the groundwork for humanity’s first colony on Mars.

Faculty Advisor: Josiah Knight