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NASA Technology Has Stabilizing Effect for Rockets and Buildings

Press Release From: Marshall Space Flight Center
Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013



A NASA technology originally designed to stabilize rockets could now help buildings survive earthquake damage. The patented technology, called fluid structure coupling, uses simple physics to dampen potentially harmful shaking in structures. NASA engineers designed the device to fit inside a rocket engine's liquid fuel tank to calm the effects of intense vibrations launch vehicles experience during liftoff.

The technology's potential to mitigate seismic or wind damage to buildings has been extensively tested at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., by shaking and stabilizing the 365-foot-tall Dynamic Test Stand, the center's tallest. Engineers fitted the 4.5-million-pound building with a rig designed to make the entire structure move. The system includes a 14,000 pound water reservoir and massive weights on the top floor of the building. During testing, the weights were moved to give the building a perceptible sway. But, when a technician engaged the fluid structure coupling device located inside the water reservoir, the movement was nearly completely stopped.

"We found that by incorporating one small device, weighing less than 100 pounds, we were able to successfully reduce the vibrations of a 650,000-pound launch vehicle," said Rob Berry, manager of the project at Marshall. "This device controls the interaction between the fluid and the structure, thereby calming the vibrations that occur during launch. Using this application, we were able to use fluid propellant we were already carrying to control the vehicle's response."

The basic idea behind the stabilization device is to use the liquid fuel in a rocket's upper stage to diminish shaking caused by the vibrations and resonance experienced during launch. But, by installing water tanks or using existing pools and tanks, the device could be adapted for many other uses.

"Not only could this technology be applied to existing structures that have problems, this technology has immense potential; it could change the way buildings and other structures are designed," Berry said. "It could have the ability to keep aircraft, ships and oil platforms steady during high winds, waves and other weather events - anywhere where fluids and structures coexist. We are currently in discussion with industry regarding potential applications."

NASA developed the technology to solve a problem on a launch vehicle. However, the technology is an easily implementable concept and has the potential to solve a multitude of vibration issues.

For video of this fluid structure coupling technology and how it may benefit structures on Earth, visit:
http://youtu.be/7cdPBjsoa_k

To learn more about this technology and its potential benefits join the NASA Tech Briefs webinar on July 18:
http://www.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/16580

For information on commercially licensing this technology contact Sammy Nabors at Sammy.Nabors@nasa.gov

For more information on the Marshall Space Flight Center, visit us on the web:
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall

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