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February 4, 1999
QuestChat with Tom Glasgow

Materials Scientist
NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 5 - 09:35:58 ]
Hello to our early arriving chat participants! Today's Aerospace Team Online chat with Tom Glasgow from NASA Lewis Research Center will begin at 10:00 a.m., Pacific Standard Time. Be sure you have read Tom's profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/team/glasgow.html before joining this chat.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 9 - 09:37:43 ]
Once the chat begins, Tom will attempt to answer as many of your questions as he can, but please be patient., Today's chat will be MODERATED to allow Tom to keep up with our questions. This means that only a few questions will be posted to the chat room at a time. Don't worry if your questions do not appear on your screen immediately during moderation. They will be held in our chat queue and posted as Tom answers those ahead of you.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 10 - 09:38:19 ]
Remember to enter "Your Handle" in the box provided before posting messages to the chat room. Once you've done this, please let us know that you have logged on for today's chat.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 11 - 09:38:51 ]
At the conclusion of today's chat, we ask that you take a few minutes to let us know what you thought about it. For your convenience, you may use our online feedback forms at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys. We look forward to hearing from you!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 12 - 09:59:10 ]
Hello and welcome to today's Aerospace Team Online chat with Tom Glasgow from NASA Lewis Research Center. For the past several years, Tom has helped design experiments and equipment for space shuttle microgravity science experiments. He has also helped develop new materials for jet engines and rocket motors, and invented a new rocket engine material that stands up to combustion temperature of 6000 degrees Fahrenheit.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 13 - 09:59:32 ]
And now, here is Tom Glasgow to answer your questions.

[ Deb - 14 - 09:59:50 ]
Hello! The students in Ypsilanti, Michigan's COPE Middle School Alternative Program are unable to be present at chat time today but would like to post questions to be asked if there is time. Thank you for your time in making this experience possible.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 18 - 10:05:06 ]
RE: [Deb] Please describe a typical day on the job for you.
My typical day starts with thinking about work in the shower. That's where the weird ideas first appear. Usually there is a meeting, which I attend, participating and recording what's discussed to share with others. A lot of my day is spent in communications. When I was a younger, active scientist, more of my day was spent in the laboratory.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 20 - 10:06:52 ]
RE: [Lonnie] What exactly was it about materials science that attracted you to this career?
Materials science appeals to me because it involves thinking in three dimensions and because when you do develop a new material it's available for all of civilization from that time forward. I also like working with other materials scientists.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 21 - 10:07:24 ]
RE: [Jamie] Hi! This is my first Quest Chat!
Welcome, Jamie. We're glad you've joined us today!

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 22 - 10:07:32 ]
RE: [Jamie] Hi! This is my first Quest Chat!
Hi Jamie! Welcome to the discussion.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 26 - 10:09:44 ]
RE: [Nick] How many of the materials you have worked on have made it into space? How many did not?
Nick, The materials I've worked on which have made it to application are now in fighter jet airplanes. An alloy I started work on in 1985 is now "bill of materials" for a rocket currently under development, which will first fly in 2006. Long development times are typical of materials science advances.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 28 - 10:11:45 ]
RE: [Jamie] What is the Aerospace Team do they help build new stuff for NASA?
Jamie, have you visited the Aerospace Team Online web site before? If not, you can find it at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 30 - 10:12:01 ]
RE: [Dane] Our class learned about the Stardust Project. Do you know what materials were used in the Stardust spacecraft and its launch vehicle?
Dane, I'm not sure what special materials were used in the Stardust project to capture particles. But in similar work, which was precursor to this investigation, we used aerogel. Aerogel is very finely structured silica, so low in density that a penny's weight of it would occupy several cubic inches. We expect particles to crush into this low density foam and stay embedded for recovery.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 31 - 10:13:31 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom what exactly do you do with the Aero Desig team?
Jamie, The Aerospace Team is brought together just to answer your questions. We all have other full-time jobs with NASA, jobs which have given us the experience to respond to a wide variety of questions. We are all volunteers for this activity.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 34 - 10:15:01 ]
RE: [Colten] What material did you use for the engine to withstand 6000 degrees temperature?
Colten, There is no material which will withstand a 6000 degree exposure without cooling. The material which is easiest to cool because of its high thermal conductivity is copper. So rocket engines like the Shuttle main engine are usually made of copper or a copper alloy. We have worked on inventing a better copper alloy.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 35 - 10:17:55 ]
RE: [Deb] You mentioned that you invented a new rocket material. Can you please describe the process of invention? Did you just wake up with a brilliant idea one day and viola! that was it?
Deb, The idea did not occur all at once. I was working on a material that didn't seem to offer enough improvement to be used for a new engine. After examining its faults, I tried to imagine an alloy that wouldn't have the faults. When I had a mental picture of the alloy I wanted, I did background research to see if such an alloy could be made. The literature provided very little guidance. But a few tests in the lab indicated the direction was good. Thereafter, it was just a matter of fifteen years and several million dollars.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 38 - 10:20:37 ]
RE: [Lonnie] What kinds of new materials do you hope to make? Plastics?
Lonnie, Plastics will be very important for any new generations of light-weight rocketships. And people, including investigators at our laboratory and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and many others are developing them now. But my expertise lies in the area of metallic alloys, so I work on the hottest parts of the rockets, the thrust chambers. Sometimes the best way to improve a rocket engine isn't to change the material of which it's made but to change internal design details such as the way we run cooling channels through the thrust chamber.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 42 - 10:22:37 ]
RE: [Dashia] What is the fastest jet you ever worked on?
Dashia, The real answer to this question is that new alloys or materials can be used on any aircraft from ordinary passenger jets which fly at 400 miles per hour, to hyper-sonic aircraft, which fly at 4000 miles per hour. They can even be used for spacecraft, which fly at 18,000 miles per hour.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 43 - 10:24:35 ]
RE: [Kalli] Are heavier wings better than light wings?
Kalli, In general, we can say light wings are better than heavy wings or that light materials for aircraft and spacecraft are better than heavy materials, but sometimes light materials just won't take the mechanical loads or the heat exposure. So sometimes we use very heavy materials in small quantities because the application demands it.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 46 - 10:26:10 ]
RE: [Nick] Have the materials you have worked on been used in the auto industry like on race cars?
Nick, The only material I have worked on which has appeared in race cars is the ceramic silican nitride. I was working on it to make aircraft engine parts. But industry found the material was very good for high speed bearings.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 47 - 10:28:35 ]
RE: [Tiffany] How big is the largest jet?
Tiffany, Some of the real big jets include the 747, the Russian Tupelov, and the SuperGuppy. The latter two are used for transporting big objects. Recently, a big object was the Christmas tree used in Rockefeller Plaza. I think it went on the Tupelov.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 50 - 10:30:40 ]
We'd like to remind you to share your thoughts about today's chat with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 51 - 10:31:22 ]
RE: [Deb] What would you define as your biggest career success? Largest frustration?
Deb, My biggest career success was not even mainly performed by me but by one of the persons who worked for me. Dr. Rafat Ansari has created a new medical instrument used for characterizing eye disease. He made this new instrument from an apparatus we were developing for space shuttle experiments. We hope it will help save the vision of literally millions of people. My largest frustration and greatest disappointment was having to give up work with a research group I headed that was developing space flight experiments.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 52 - 10:33:14 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, Why dosent the rockets tip get flatted when flying at those great speeds? is it a specail medal that can take that kind of pressure pushhing down on it?
Jamie, You are right. A rocket does experience a lot of pressure on its outside surface, especially in the early stages of flight at low altitudes. However, it is the task of mechanical engineers to design the craft to successfully withstand this pressure.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 54 - 10:36:48 ]
RE: [LonnieandDeb] What kind of new space shuttles are you working on? Why are they going to be plastic?
Lonnie and Deb, The new space shuttle we're working on now we hope will operate a lot more like an airplane. It will still take off vertically, but it will carry all its fuel tanks inside itself. It will no longer have external solid rocket boosters and a disposable fuel tank. It will have to be plastic so that it will be light enough to carry these immense tanks all the way to space. Of course, when I say "plastic", I mean it will be plastic on the inside, the tanks will be plastic, but the outside will still have a thin sheet of metal and in some places even ceramic.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 56 - 10:38:48 ]
RE: [Thelma] How long are the engines you work with and how much do they weigh?
Thelma, Rocket engines range from little fellows about 8 inches long and weighing only a couple pounds, to the monsters at about twenty feet long and weighing about a ton.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 60 - 10:41:59 ]
RE: [Deb] How is the environmental impact of a material's manufacture and disposal considered in its selection for use?
Deb, For a lot of rocket materials, we do not give prime attention to recycling of the material. In contrast to automobiles, which use millions of tons of the same material, there are so few rockets built that disposing of them is not a problem. Where we get really careful is with nuclear materials, which are sometimes used for power on deep space flights. Building rockets is so challanging that we usually have to go with the material which can get us to space, rather than the material which might be most readily manufactured or recycled.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 61 - 10:44:43 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, Why is the idea of plastic jets better than the ones we have now? wont the plastic just get crushed because of the heat and the pressure?
Jamie, In the next century, we plan to make the structure of jet airplanes out of plastics, in particular, plastics made stronger by the addition of very fine extremely strong carbon fibers. These plastics will weigh so much less than metals that we'll be able to use smaller engines and burn less fuel to fly the jets. Because the plastics are strengthened by the carbon fibers, they will be as strong or stronger than the metals we use today.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 62 - 10:47:03 ]
RE: [NickandDeb] How much longer do you plan to work before you retire? Where do you see the changes happening in your field before you retire?
Nick and Deb, It depends on how exciting the work is. Right now, I'm working on some very risky rocketships. I could keep doing this for another 30 years. But if the only thing I was doing was working on old technology, I'd want to retire tomorrow. Before I retire, I hope to see the first of these new rockets fly.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 65 - 10:49:12 ]
RE: [Dane] How do computers help you in your work?
Dane, We use computers all the time. I mostly use them to help communicate with other people here at our laboratory and around the world, like we're doing with you now. But others here use computers to control laboratory apparatus, to keep track of budgets, to mathematically investigate how all sorts of systems work. Some of our new inventions would be impossible without rather large computers.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 66 - 10:51:40 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, would you say your job is easy or hard and why?
Jamie, My job is easy for me because I have many years of experience in the field of materials science. This allows me to understand the manufacture and application of metals, ceramics, plastics and composite materials. Sometimes I can answer difficult questions just because I remember somebody else who dealt with such a question some time in my career.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 68 - 10:55:28 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, How come you make the Rockets sooo big? why cant we just have a rocket that is 200 feet tall?
Jamie, The rockets are so big because they have to be big to carry a large load to space. When we are carrying much smaller loads, and we sometimes do this, we can use much smaller rockets, for example only 35 feet long. Such a small rocket can carry a payload of about 150 pounds, which is enough for some small science experiments. But for complex science experiments, we have to carry along astronauts and their life support systems. Then rockets get very big indeed.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 69 - 10:56:41 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, If we were going to use plastic for rocket would'nt we have to put a special alloy in the mixture to make it withstand the presure?
Jamie, You are right, a plastic by itself wouldn't be strong enough to make a rocket. But when we add fine carbon fibers to the plastic it can become as strong as steel and still be light-weight.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 70 - 10:56:56 ]
EVERYONE, we only have a few minutes left in today's chat with Tom Glasgow. At this time, we would like to thank everyone for joining us today, and for asking GREAT questions for Tom.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 71 - 10:57:55 ]
Be sure to share your comments about today's chat with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 72 - 11:00:37 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, What is the rocket that launchs the jet made out of I would think it is some special medal to with stand the intense heat?
Jamie, In any given rocketship, there are probably 2000 different materials. The hottest parts are made of nickel-based super-alloys, which maintain their strength to about 2000 degrees F, and copper alloys, which maintain their strength at even higher temperatures because we can cool them so readily. Sometimes the heat is too intense for any material to take without burning. Then we use a special combination of materials called "ablative". An ablative partially chars on exposure to heat and the gases given off as it chars protect it from further heating.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 74 - 11:06:18 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, What exactly do Carbon Fibers do??
Jamie, The strongest material in the world is diamond. But we can't build structures like airplane frames and rocketships out of diamond. It's brittle. Carbon fibers have internal bonding very much like that of diamond. Being very small, much smaller than human hair, the fibers can bend readily. So we can weave them together and then glue them together with a plastic we the "resin matrix". The composite consisting of strong fibers and the resin that holds them together now acts like a strong material, not as strong as diamond, but able to bend and flex as is required for real structures.

[ TomGlasgow/LeRC - 78 - 11:20:13 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, would you say your job is easy or hard and why?
Jamie, Sorry this answer was lost previously. My job is easy for me because of the many years of experience I have and because the people I work with tend to be helpful. Sometimes I can answer a technical question not based on my own work, but the work of others I've worked with in the past.

[ All - 75 - 11:09:50 ]
Thank you so much for answering our questions. We look forward to checking out the chat in the archives!

[ Jamie - 76 - 11:09:50 ]
thanks Tom it was a great chat!!! you answered all my questiosn wonderfully!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 77 - 11:18:12 ]
We'd like to offer a special thanks to Tom Glasgow for sharing his first-hand experiences and expertise with us online today. We hope you can join us for our next ADTO chat with Steve Englehart, author of a book about Wilbur and Orville Wright. Find out more about this chat on the ADTO chat schedule page, at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/chats/#chatting. You can also learn about upcoming chats with other NASA experts on our schedule of events page at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/common/events.


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