February 4, 1999
QuestChat with Tom Glasgow
NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH
- 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
before joining this chat.
- 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
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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.
- 10 - 09:38:19 ]
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- 11 - 09:38:51 ]
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We look forward to hearing from you!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 21 - 10:07:24 ]
RE: [Jamie] Hi! This is my first Quest
Welcome, Jamie. We're glad you've joined us today!
- 22 - 10:07:32 ]
RE: [Jamie] Hi! This is my first Quest
Hi Jamie! Welcome to the discussion.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 47 - 10:28:35 ]
RE: [Tiffany] How big is the largest
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 60 - 10:41:59 ]
RE: [Deb] How is the environmental impact
of a material's manufacture and disposal considered in its selection for
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 74 - 11:06:18 ]
RE: [Jamie] Tom, What exactly do Carbon
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.
- 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!
- 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.