2020 RID Awards

PROJECT: Hibernation-like Stasis for Space Emergency Medicine

PI: Kelly Drew, Professor, UAF

Co-PI: Bernard Laughlin, Research Scientist, UAF

Hypobaric hypoxia that can occur in space and at high altitude results in permanent neuronal damage to the human brain and cognitive deficits that persist even after returning to normoxia (25941462). More severe hypoxia can lead to cardiac arrest which produces extreme deficits in oxygen and blood flow to the brain and subsequent death or disability due to brain injury. Astronauts as well as residents of many rural and remote communities across Alaska and other areas of the US have limited access to emergency care where transport to tertiary care facilities can take days to weeks. In consultation with NASA scientist, Dr. Yuri Griko and Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) scientist, Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta we have identified targeted temperature management (TTM) as a medical intervention to develop for space. Targeted temperature management protects the brain from low oxygen by decreasing core body temperature to 32-36C and is currently standard of care for cardiac arrest patients. Efficacy of TTM after cardiac arrest is limited however by the body’s cold defense response (for example shivering). As a post-doc in Kelly Drew’s laboratory at UAF I optimized a method of blocking the cold-defense response by mimicking the process used by hibernating animals to suppress metabolism and lower body temperature. I have been promoted recently to the position of Research Scientist and hope to develop my own independent research in resuscitation science. The purpose of this application is to test how well the method I developed works to protect the brain after cardiac arrest in a laboratory rodent model of cardiac arrest. These data will be used for a collaborative proposal with Dr. Griko and Dr. Urquieta to be submitted to a NSAS funding opportunity such as the Biomedical Research Advances for Space Health BRASH 1801 offered in 2018. The work proposed for this seed grant builds on my prior research and utilizes protocols that I have developed in the Drew laboratory. The research will contribute to my development as a PI as well as to undergraduate research experience (DeAnna Lowden, Angie Bogoyo and Daniel Mulkey). The work will also contribute to preliminary data for a Phase 2 SBIR application in collaboration with Kelly’s company, Be Cool Pharmaceutics. I will serve as PI on the Phase 2 SBIR application. If successful an SBIR award will help to commercialize the technology.

PROJECT: Adaptive PV Array Reconfiguration for Optimal Power Extraction during Partial Shading Conditions

PI: Mohammad Heidari Kapourchali, Assistant Professor, UAA

Partial shading of a photovoltaic (PV) array occurs when one or more PV modules are obstructed from collecting otherwise available solar irradiance. The cause of which could be due to changing weather conditions, or particulate obstructions such as snow, ice, ash, or dust. Even if the majority of the individual panels are collecting ample solar irradiance, the presence of just a few partially shaded modules can significantly reduce the overall power production of the array. This effect is of particular concern near the higher and lower latitudes of the Earth where the ecliptic path of the sun causes substantial variation in irradiance patterns, as well as an attenuation light energy as it propagates a greater distance through the atmosphere. Dynamic reconfiguration of PV modules within a larger solar array is known to be an effective method for minimizing the deleterious effects of partial shading. An array that is capable of rapidly and purposefully rearranging its electrical interconnections is empowered to adapt to variable irradiation patterns, failures of constituent solar modules, or even self-regulating power production in response to changing energy demands. This NASA Research Infrastructure Development (RID) proposal seeks to unlock the full potential of photovoltaic arrays under significant non-uniform shading by first, designing and implementing a dynamic and flexible solar PV testbed and then, employing and comparing a suite of detection and dynamic reconfiguration techniques for achieving an adaptive operation. We will build on the existing solar facilities available at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and compare the performance of the PV array topologies under various shading patterns and wiring options. This project is in line with, and can complement the flexible solar arrays research and development at the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC). This RID project will also provide a testbed for future adaptive solar research and help with preliminary data for future proposals to NASA, Department of Energy-EERE, and office of Naval Research.

PROJECT: Measurements of Electron Density and Density Irregularities at High Latitudes: Response to Geomagnetic Storms

PI: Amani Reddy, Research Assistant Professor, UAF

Space Weather describes the variations in the space environment between the sun and Earth. Intense changes in solar activity, such as Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), can cause space weather storms. These storms, called geomagnetic storms on Earth, can adversely affect ground- and space-based technologies (e.g., GPS). During storm time the energy deposited at high latitudes increases 10- to 20-fold leading to acceleration of electrons and protons down to Earth’s magnetic field lines and increased auroral activity. Knowledge of high latitude electron density and density irregularities along geomagnetic field lines (B0) is necessary to understand the impact of geomagnetic storm activity and the physics of the electrodynamic processes related to auroral activity. Despite their importance, high latitude electron density and density irregularities are poorly known. Using radio sounding data from NASA’s IMAGE satellite [Reinisch et al, 2000], and a recently developed whistler mode (WM) radio sounding technique [Sonwalkar et al, 2011a, b], we propose to investigate high latitude electron density and density irregularities along B0 from ~90 to 5000 km. In a magnetoplasma, waves at frequencies below local electron plasma and gyro-frequency propagate in whistler mode. In this mode waves propagate close to B0, and therefore, unlike other space- and ground-based methods, WM radio sounding method permits measurements of electron density, ion composition, and irregularities along B0. In this research project, we will focus on obtaining measurements of field-aligned electron density at high latitudes. We will perform a case study analysis to investigate changes in field-aligned electron density and density irregularities before, during, and after a geomagnetic storm period. We will complement electron density measurements from WM radio sounding with those from DMSP (850 km) and CHAMP (350 km) satellites and ground-based ionosondes. We will also examine other indicators of storm time activity, such as visible and radar aurora. We will interpret our measurements in the light of past observational and theoretical work to gain a better understanding of auroral processes. We will use the results obtained from the research proposed here as a springboard to launch a comprehensive study of high latitude electron density and density irregularities along B0 as indicators of space weather activity.

PROJECT: Food from Nonbiological Synthesis: Applications to Space and Earth

PI: David Denkenberger, Assistant Professor, UAF

The purpose of the project is to analyze the possibility of providing food in space/moon/Mars or in the event of a global catastrophe such as abrupt climate change or asteroid impact. The basic technology is using electricity to split water into hydrogen and combining this with carbon dioxide nonbiologically and then synthesizing food. This has been done by a variety of teams including at NASA, and Dr. John Hogan at NASA Ames will support the project. Juha-Pekka Pitkanen is at the company Solar Foods and is developing a similar technology and will also support the project. This project will estimate the efficiency and cost of this food source in extraterrestrial applications. It will also investigate how many people could be fed as a function of time in a catastrophe and at what approximate cost. These will involve a synthesis of the literature on nonbiological production of food (including the results of NASA’s CO2 conversion challenge) and leveraging other investigations of rapidly scaling up food sources in catastrophes. One anticipated result is feeding a significant fraction of the global population by the end of the first year after the catastrophe. Also expected is that the cost of extraterrestrial applications will be significantly lower than using electricity to produce light and then growing food with photosynthesis because of the much greater efficiency of chemical synthesis.

PROJECT: Development and Initial Testing of a Venus-Analog Seismic Events Catalog

PI: Robert Herrick, Research Professor, UAF

Developing an understanding of the interior structure of Venus and its current level of geologic activity, particularly the nature and frequency of volcanic and tectonic events, are high priority goals of NASA’s planetary exploration program (VEXAG GOI, 2019; Decadal Survey, 2011). A network of seismometers could achieve these goals, but the desired observation period of at least weeks far exceeds the ~1-hour lifetimes of previous landers in the harsh Venusian surface conditions. NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) has been engaged for many years in development of high-temperature electronics with the goal of enabling deployment of long-lived instruments on the Venus surface. They are working through various aspects of instrument design and testing for a seismometer (Figure 1). Current design indicates that instrument performance will have a variety of limitations and restrictions. In particular, the instrument will likely be battery powered with little or no memory capability, and both data transmission and continuous operation will rapidly expend the battery. Part of the design process is testing various approaches to solve these problems against anticipated seismicity. This pilot project is designed to fill a need for a catalog of analog seismic events and the ability to evaluate how well those events can be characterized with proposed instrument hardware/software designs. The proposed work is for an eight-week, single-investigator project to 1) develop a catalog of potential Venus-analog seismic events using the software and data archive of the Alaska Earthquake Center (AEC) at the Geophysical Institute (GI), University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and 2) assess the results from applying simple filters and trigger mechanisms that represent potential instrument design limitations. The PI has over three decades experience as a geophysicist studying the planet Venus and began his career in reflection seismology, but he has minimal experience in earthquake seismology. Consistent with the design of the Research Initiation Grant program, the PI will gain knowledge/experience working the AEC’s software and data catalog. This project will establish initial GI-GRC ties and serve as a “proof-of-concept” project for larger NASA research, instrument-development, and mission proposals.

PROJECT: InSAR -based mapping and geophysical investigation of landslides along the Alaska Highway Corridor, Tetlin Junction to Northway Junction, Alaska

PI: Shishay Kidanu, Assistant Professor, UAF

The goals of this proposed research are to (1) detect landslide locations along the Alaska Highway corridor from Tetlin Junction to Northway Junction (total length of about 60 km and an average width of about 20 km) using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data analysis, and (2) produce a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based map and spatial database. The research also will involve a detailed study of two selected landslides to characterize the subsurface geologic materials and understand their failure mechanisms through field surveys and in situ geophysical investigations. Although landslides are common in many areas of the state, this study area is selected for the following reasons. First of all, the Alaska Highway corridor is likely to become the zone of increasing development as it is the major land transportation route to Interior Alaska from the contiguous United States (ADGGA Annual report, 2010). Hence, this corridor requires special attention with respect to landslide hazard and risk assessment. Additionally, geologic and permafrost-distribution maps and reports exist for the corridor, which will be important input information in the landslide inventory and characterization. Finally, the Alaska Highway corridor provides accessibility for fieldwork, which is key for inventory map field-verification and field data collection.

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