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FACULTY RESEARCHERS 2019-2020

The NASA Nebraska Space Grant is excited to highlight our innovative faculty research projects this year. For 2018 projects, click here.

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Abstract: The reported immune dysfunction of astronauts in space and the viral antibiotic resistance during spaceflights suggest the critical need of developing preventive countermeasures for the manufacturing of medical devices associated with high bacterial load. The objective of the current proposal is to develop new antimicrobial polymers and copolymers compatible with the Additive Manufacturing Facility at the International Space Station for the development of medical devices in space.

Aims:

Aim 1: Develop three new antimicrobial 3D printing polymers and copolymers containing a biocidal copper-based nanocomposite that are flexible, durable and biocompatible.

Aim 2: Perform ground testing of new materials using a replica of the Additive Manufacturing Facility at the International Space Station.

Aim 3: Development and post-extrusion assessment of the antimicrobial effectiveness, longevity, and mechanically characterization of 3D printed medical devices, including a finger orthosis and a basic surgical kit.

How the proposed work will reduce a NASA high priority risk?:

Previous investigations have demonstrated that the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain resulted enhanced antibiotic resistance in microgravity-analogue conditions suggesting potential alterations in antibiotic efficacy during long-duration spaceflights missions. Given that medical conditions will occur during human long duration spaceflight missions, there is a possibility of adverse health outcomes & decrements in performance during these missions. The current proposal has the potential to reduce NASA Human Research Program’s risks of highest priority for long duration space´Čéight missions (also known as the “red risks”). Specifically, “The Risk of Adverse Health Outcomes & Decrements in Performance due to Inflight Medical Conditions” for deep space journeys and long flight missions. Thus, there is a critical need for preventive countermeasures to mitigate microbial risks during space flight missions. The current proposal has the potential of revolutionize patient care of crewmembers. Potential applications of antibacterial 3D printing materials are not limited to only medical devices, but any other non-medical object critical to the crewmembers, such as sound protection panels.  Medical devices containing microbial eliminating properties can potentially reduce the need for sterilization techniques that require additional transportation space increasing the overall logistic burden to conserved space. The unprecedented accessibility of 3D printing technology and the implementation of antibacterial 3D printing filament to manufacture medical devices is not only critical during spaceflight missions, but has a promising potential to a wide range of clinical applications on earth and on the civilian populations revolutionizing patient care.

Dr. Jorge Zuniga, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of Biomechanics

ANTIMICROBIAL 3D PRINTED MEDICAL DEVICES FOR ASTRONAUTS

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In compliance with the Committee on Space Research Planetary Protection policy, NASA monitors the total microbial burden of spacecraft as a means for minimizing forward contamination. For missions to other planets, such as Mars and Europa (a moon of Jupiter), it is important to reduce the overall microbial bioburden to meet the Planetary Protection requirements. Significant effort is spent by NASA on ensuring that spacecraft component are completely sterile before deployment, including frequent resterilization of components during assembly. In work with NASA Johnson Space Center, it has been demonstrated that femtosecond laser surface processing can be used to make antimicrobial silver surfaces that are being explored for use in the next generation of condensing heat exchangers for the International Space Station. This Space Grant project will explore the use of of femtosecond laser surface processing to make antimicrobial aluminum surfaces that can be used for spacecraft components.

Dr. Craig Zuhlke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

ANTIMICROBIAL SPACECRAFT SURFACES USING FEMTOSECOND LASER SURFACE PROCESSING FOR PLANETARY PROTECTION

Amanda Roe

The overriding goal of the workshop series is to stimulate interest in STEM by increasing the number of activity and inquiry-based learning experiences children receive during primary education. This program will provide face to face workshops for elementary teachers of STEM, and will build on community-requested educator professional development. Overall, our workshops will provide teachers with authentic STEM experiences which will enable them to increase and improve STEM experiences in their classrooms while allowing the teachers to earn higher education credit. Each of these goals and projected outcomes directly supports the NASA Education Implementation Plan, 2015-2017 (Electronically Enhanced Edition, January 2016).

Dr. Amanda Roe, College of St. Mary, Department of Biology

ELEMENTARY EDUCATOR SCIENCE ENRICHMENT WORKSHOP SERIES

Griff Elder

The project identifies exceptionally strong students, whose needs are not sufficiently addressed in their current classroom, and mentors these students through introductory courses into advanced topics in theoretical mathematics.

The proposal hires a GTA to support three activities that each supports high-level achievement for a different population:

(1) A Thursday problem solving session.

(2) A Friday problem solving session.

(3) Advanced Topics in Algebra: Algebraic Number Theory.

(1) The Thursday session supports high school teachers taking graduate classes; upper-level UNO double majors

taking our most advanced courses; and a few high school students who are interested in advanced problem solving.

(2) The Friday sessions recruit 1st and 2nd year UNO students, engage them in advanced problem solving, and develop a social culture.

(3) Advanced Topics challenge UNO students with PhD-level topics.

Dr. Griff Elder, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of Mathematics

MENTORING HIGH PERFORMANCE STUDENTS INTO ADVANCED TOPICS IN MATHEMATICS AND UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH

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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is bringing together outstanding student researchers for the 2019 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physical Sciences, to be held on the UNL campus Thursday, November 7 through Saturday, November 9, 2019. Undergraduate students in all physical science disciplines are invited to take part in this unique opportunity to expand upon their current research experiences. Keynote talks will feature scientists who are leaders in their fields, highlighting progress in materials science and related fields. Participants will be able to present their research results to their peers during invited talks and poster sessions. Social activities and special sessions will provide time to share experiences with other students, to obtain advice about pursuing careers in the physical sciences, and to visit laboratories on campus.

Dr. Rebecca Y. Lai, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Chemistry

UNL CONFERENCE FOR UNDERGRADUATE WOMEN IN PHYSICAL SCIENCES (WoPhyS)

Hafizur Rahman

Muscle atrophy is a common problem for astronauts while traveling and stationed at the International Space Station (ISS) due to the microgravity environment. Although several specific exercise countermeasure devices (i.e. weighted treadmill, advanced resistive exercise device) have been developed, astronauts still experience significant deficits in muscle function upon returning to earth. The contribution of these countermeasures to muscle function and muscular responses is not well understood. The proposed research project will implement musculoskeletal computational modeling and simulation to investigate how exercise countermeasures impact muscle function by quantifying the typical muscular force response to exercise. Understanding how muscle function improves following supervised cardiovascular exercise is fundamental knowledge necessary to guide the exercise countermeasures recommendations for astronauts on ISS.

Dr. Hafizur Rahman, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of Biomechanics

UNDERSTANDING THE MUSCULAR RESPONSE TO EXERCISE DURING SPACE EXPLORATION 

Carl Nelson

This project is focused on developing and experimentally validating a new type of mechanical joint for use in robotics. The joint design allows simple and low-cost construction and is based on rolling contact without sliding (i.e., low friction). Special types of mechanical structures can be created with this new joint, for example, mimicking the motion of a ball and socket joint. The construction is also inherently human-safe so that robots and people can work alongside each other safely. The project includes prototyping and testing.

Dr. Carl Nelson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

COMPLIANT JOINT TECHNOLOGY FOR ROBOTICS 

Bai Cui

The research goal of this project is to develop the novel laser 3D printing processes to fabricate structures using advanced ceramic materials such as yttria-stabilized zirconia, SiC and their composites for space applications. The current 3D printing techniques of ceramic materials, such as binder jetting and inkjet printing, can induce low density and many defects (such as pores and cracks), resulting in degradation of mechanical properties and corrosion resistance. The novelty of this proposal is to develop new laser 3D printing processes, which use the high laser energy to sinter ceramic powders directly for the 3D printing of ceramic parts with a high density, fewer defects, and higher mechanical properties.

 

The education goal of this project is to train graduate and undergraduate students from underrepresented minority groups to pursue their career in STEM areas.

Dr. Bai Cui, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

3D PRINTING OF ADVANCED CERAMIC MATERIALS FOR SPACE APPLICATIONS 

Keegan Moore

The overall efficiency and performance of commercial airliners must increase to meet growing public demands for reduced environmental impact. One approach targeted by NASA is to enhance the aerodynamic performance of current aircraft designs using ultra-high-aspect-ratio (UHAR) wings. However, the increase in aerodynamic performance gained by UHAR wings is often offset by significant increases in the amplitudes of vibration that the wing experiences during flight. This research will develop a broadband vibration mitigation strategy for UHAR wings by manipulating nonlinear absorbers to dissipate energy at multiple frequencies. A model UHAR wing will be studied experimentally, the proposed solution will be designed based on the measured data, and its effectiveness will be verified experimentally. The resulting research will be disseminated through local and national conferences, a journal publication, and through a planned visit to NASA Langley Research Center.

Dr. Keegan Moore, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

MANIPULATING NONLINEAR ABSORBERS TO ENHANCE VIBRATION SUPPRESSION IN ULTRA-HIGH-ASPECT-RATIO WINGS 

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The parasite Toxoplasma gondii causes Toxoplasmosis, a leading cause of food-borne illness and death. Acute infection can be lethal, while chronic infection impacts risk-averse and exploratory behavior. Although T. gondii reproduces sexually only in felid intestines, we don’t know how it affects cat behavior. Addressing this in domestic cats is essential, as their large number impacts parasite spread in natural settings. Parasite spread is also influenced by climate, as warmth and humidity determine the infectivity of oocytes shed in cat feces. We will use remote sensing devices that upload data to the NASA-funded Movebank database to ask whether cats who became infected through natural means alter their behavior and also determine how long they shed oocysts. In collaboration with NASA partners, the data gathered using this minimally invasive, animal-mobility paradigm will be used to develop geospatial models of parasite spread and identify infected animals by their behavior.

Dr. Bruce Chase, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of Biology

ESTIMATING ACTIVITY AND OOCYST-SHEDDING OF T. GONDII-INFECTED DOMESTIC CATS ON PUBLIC LAND