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ISS Flight Op - Investigation of fatigue due to solar neutron and other radiation absorption in new materials for neutron voltaic devices University of Nebraska, Lincoln/NASA Glenn Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Science Mission Directorate

The goal of this project is to develop a boron-carbide-based semiconducting neutron/alpha particle voltaic device that can be ultimately employed to power NASA deep space probes. Since solar power is not available in deep space, deep space probes are currently powered by

Top: STM image at +2V bias voltage. Bottom: corresponding map of the electronic density of states from tunnel spectroscopy.

Steve Huning, NASA Technical Monitor, Research Integration Manager, NASA Johnson Space center



NASA EPSCoR Stimuli 2014 -15

Top: STM image at +4V bias voltage. Note the contrast inversion with respect to the image above left. Bottom: corresponding map of the electronic density of states from tunnel spectroscopy.

Prof. Axel Enders, Science PI, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

sub-critical thermo-nuclear reactors fueled by plutonium 238. This power generation approach is inefficient, hot and requires a relatively large amount of plutonium and extensive shielding to protect satellite systems from the generated radiation. An alternate approach would be to employ neutron based photovoltaic devices, which have the potential to supply the energy needed to power deep space satellites and probes. The key component in this scheme is the neutron voltaic device, which will be developed through this project. This research aligns with the NASA Strategic Vision and Strategic Plan which both outline NASA’s goal to “Create the innovative new space technologies for our exploration, science, and economic future.” To achieve the research goal the PIs collaborate with NASA scientists at Glenn Research Center and have formed a partnership with NASA’s ISS space flight program to install a materials science experiment at the International Space Station. Through this NASA-EPSCoR-funded project the PIs were able to establish fruitful collaborations with other federal agencies such as the Air Force, with researchers from 4 other academic institutions, and have formed a partnership with private sector industry, specifically here with Rhombus LLC. Through these collaborations this research project is expected to impact not only the development of new boron-carbide based semiconductors for neutron voltaics, it will more broadly accelerate the developments of new materials for power generation and radiation detection and shielding. Systemic changes enabled through this grant include the installation of a new research facility at UNL’s Department of Electrical Engineering, to perform Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) System for thick film growth. This facility and the research that emerges from its availability does not only enable additional partnerships with scientists from the academic and the private sector, it has also helped the team attract additional funding for related research projects and to make the Nebraska University a recognized center for the development of boron carbide based materials. Leveraged with other funding, this project thus far has provided research opportunities to 4 faculty at the University of Nebraska, 4 postdoctoral researchers, 7 graduate students and 12 undergraduate researchers. Three of our graduate students were able to receive competitive, prestigious research awards. The University of Nebraska as well as the Nebraska Research Initiative have recently committed significant additional funds to support the collaborative research of the PIs beyond its current level.

EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15  

NASA Office of Education’s Aerospace Research & Career Development (ARCD) is pleased to release NASA EPSCoR Stimuli, a collection of univers...

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