Special Coverage

Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research
Small Robot Has Outstanding Vertical Agility
Smart Optical Material Characterization System and Method
Lightweight, Flexible Thermal Protection System for Fire Protection

Customizable Digital Receivers for Radar

These receivers are unusually compact and versatile. Compact, highly customizable digital receivers are being developed for the system described in “Radar Interferometer for Topographic Mapping of Glaciers and Ice Sheets” (NPO-43962), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 7 (August 2007), page 72. In the original intended application, there is a requirement for 16 such receivers, each dedicated to, and mounted directly on, one antenna element in a 16-element array. The receivers are required to operate in unison, sampling radar returns received by the antenna elements in a digital beam-forming (DBF) mode. The design of these receivers could also be adapted to commercial radar systems. At the time of reporting the information for this article, there were no commercially available digital receivers capable of satisfying all of the operational requirements and compact enough to be mounted directly on the antenna elements.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Cartography, Radar, Weather and climate


A Data Type for Efficient Representation of Other Data Types

Some obstacles to programming of parallel computers are removed. A self-organizing, monomorphic data type denoted a sequence has been conceived to address certain concerns (summarized below) that arise in programming parallel computers. [“Sequence” as used here should not be confused with “sequence” as the word is commonly understood or with “sequence” as used elsewhere to denote another, polymorphic data type that is also relevant to computer programming.] A sequence in the present sense can be regarded abstractly as a vector, set, bag, queue, or other construct. A sequence is defined in terms of the behavior of the operators that can be applied to it without any foreknowledge of the underpinnings of its representation or particular implementation.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences, Architecture, Data management


Lower-Dark-Current, Higher-Blue-Response CMOS Imagers

Semiconductor junctions are relocated away from Si/SiO2 interfaces. Several improved designs for complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) integrated- circuit image detectors have been developed, primarily to reduce dark currents (leakage currents) and secondarily to increase responses to blue light and increase signal- handling capacities, relative to those of prior CMOS imagers. The main conclusion that can be drawn from a study of the causes of dark currents in prior CMOS imagers is that dark currents could be reduced by relocating p/n junctions away from Si/SiO2 interfaces. In addition to reflecting this conclusion, the improved designs include several other features to counteract dark-current mechanisms and enhance performance.

Posted in: Briefs, Semiconductors & ICs, Imaging and visualization, Integrated circuits, Semiconductor devices, Performance upgrades


Broadband Microstrip-to-Coplanar Strip Double-Y Balun

This balun is compact, broadband, and can be fabricated easily. A new version of the double-Y balun, transitioning from an unbalanced microstrip to a balanced coplanar strip (CPS) line, has been designed to feed a complementary spiral antenna with an input impedance of 100 Ω. Various versions of the double-Y balun have been investigated in previous literature for use with balanced mixers and pulsed antennas. Of the previous versions, the double-Y balun transitioning from a coplanar waveguide (CPW) to CPS was found to exhibit the widest bandwidth of operation while having little metal content (attractive for use in ground-penetrating radar applications). However, the double-Y balun transitioning from a CPW to CPS requires coplanar waveguide bridges at the junction; the inductive behavior of the bridges, in addition to CPW parasitic resonances, degrades the passband performance of the balun.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Electronic equipment


A Topographical Lidar System for Terrain-Relative Navigation

Demand for memory is reduced by digitizing over a limited altitude range. An imaging lidar system is being developed for use in navigation, relative to the local terrain. This technology will potentially be used for future spacecraft landing on the Moon. Systems like this one could also be used on Earth for diverse purposes, including mapping terrain, navigating aircraft with respect to terrain and military applications. The system has been field-tested aboard a helicopter in the Mojave Desert.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Cartography, Lidar, Navigation and guidance systems, Terrain, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft


Electronic Switch Arrays for Managing Microbattery Arrays

Array circuitry is dynamically configured to optimize performance and disconnect defective elements. Integrated circuits have been invented for managing the charging and discharging of such advanced miniature energy-storage devices as planar arrays of microscopic energy- storage elements [typically, microscopic electrochemical cells (microbatteries) or microcapacitors]. The architecture of these circuits enables implementation of the following energy- management options: Dynamic configuration of the elements of an array into a series or parallel combination of banks (subarrays), each array comprising a series or parallel combination of elements; Direct addressing of individual banks for charging and/or discharging; and Disconnection of defective elements and corresponding reconfiguration of the rest of the array to utilize the remaining functional elements to obtain the desired voltage and current performance.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Downsizing, Architecture, Batteries, Capacitors, Integrated circuits


Programmable Low-Voltage Circuit Breaker and Tester

This system could also detect some faults before turning on power. An instrumentation system that would comprise a remotely controllable and programmable low- voltage circuit breaker plus several electric- circuit-testing subsystems has been conceived, originally for use aboard a spacecraft during all phases of operation from pre-launch testing through launch, ascent, orbit, descent, and landing. The system could also be adapted to similar use aboard aircraft. In comparison with remotely controllable circuit breakers heretofore commercially available, this system would be smaller, less massive, and capable of performing more functions, as needed for aerospace applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Electrical systems, Switches, Performance upgrades, Fixed-wing aircraft, Spacecraft


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