National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Power and Measurement Inventions Merit R&D 100 Awards


Three teams of researchers and scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center were honored with R&D Magazine’s “Oscar of Invention” during the annual awards banquet on Oct. 13, at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld in Florida.The magazine’s editors, along with an independent judging panel, selected the following Glenn inventions among the top 100 technologically significant new products in 2011:

Non-Flow-Through PEM Fuel Cell Team

Non-Flow-Through PEM Fuel Cell Team. Left to right: Jakupca, Burke and Hoberecht.

The Non-Flow-Through Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cell is a more efficient way to produce electricity for long duration missions. All fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate heat, electricity and water. While the standard fuel cell requires continuous purging of the water produced, the new invention passively wicks the water away. This avoids the need to recirculate gases and results in a system with much less weight and volume. The new fuel cells could lead to improved long-term scientific exploration, safer military operations and have significant impact on unmanned underwater and aerial vehicles. Team members include Mark Hoberecht and Ken Burke of Glenn (Electrochemistry Branch), Ian Jakupca of QinetiQ North America, William Smith and Alfred Meyer of Infinity Fuel Cell and Hydrogen, Inc., James McElroy of McElroy PEM Technologies, LLC and Christopher Callahan of Callahan Engineering, PLLC.

The Multi-Parameter Aerosol Scattering Sensor (MPASS) can accurately measure, characterize and monitor atmospheric particulates. Originally developed for early-warning fire detection in spacecraft and remote habitats, this extremely compact sensor provides more accurate measurements than larger, heavier and more expensive instruments that are currently available. It can potentially be worn as a personal monitor enabling first responders, firefighters and hazardous material personnel to manage their exposure to dangerous breathing conditions. Team members include Paul Greenberg (Combustion & Reacting Systems Branch) and David Fischer (Combustion Branch) of Glenn, James Lock of Cleveland State University and William Yanis of the National Center for Space Exploration Research.

The Laser Pulse Stretcher allows scientists to study flames and combustion systems, using a series of mirrors to store short pulses of light while allowing a small amount to leak out in a controlled manner. This lengthens the time during which measurements can be made so that scientists can see more clearly what is occurring in various types of fire. This critical new capability will have a positive impact in building safer, cleaner and more affordable aircraft. Team members include Quang-Viet Nguyen (Space Environment & Experiments Branch) of Glenn and Jun Kojima of the Ohio Aerospace Institute.

These recent awards bring Glenn’s total to 112 R&D 100 Awards since 1963.

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This article originally appeared in the October 2011 edition of NASA Glenn’s AeroSpace Frontiers.