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Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams
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Compact Fuel-Cell System Would Consume Neat Methanol

Size, mass, and parasitic power consumption would be reduced. In a proposed direct methanol fuelcell electric- power-generating system, the fuel cells would consume neat methanol, in contradistinction to the dilute aqueous methanol solutions consumed in prior direct methanol fuel-cell systems. The design concept of the proposed fuel-cell system takes advantage of (1) electro-osmotic drag and diffusion processes to manage the flows of hydrogen and water between the anode and the cathode and (2) evaporative cooling for regulating temperature. The design concept provides for supplying enough water to the anodes to enable the use of neat methanol while ensuring conservation of water for the whole fuel-cell system. By rendering unnecessary some of the auxiliary components and subsystems needed in other direct methanol fuel-cell systems for redistributing water, diluting methanol, and regulating temperature, this fuel-cell design would make it possible to construct a more compact, less massive, more energy-efficient fuel-cell system.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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Ring-Resonator/Sol-Gel Interferometric Immunosensor

Light would make multiple passes through the sensing volume. A proposed biosensing system would be based on a combination of (1) a sensing volume containing antibodies immobilized in a sol-gel matrix and (2) an optical interferometer having a ring resonator configuration. The antibodies would be specific to an antigen species that one seeks to detect. The binding of the antigens to the immobilized antibodies would change the index of refraction of the sensing volume, which would be mounted in one of the interferometer arms. The interferometer would measure the change in the index of refraction, thereby indirectly measuring the concentration of the antigen species of interest.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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Algorithm Would Enable Robots to Solve Problems Creatively

A control architecture is based on hypotheses concerning natural intelligence. A control architecture and algorithms to implement the architecture have been conceived to enable a robot to learn from its experiences and to combine knowledge gained from prior experiences in such a way as to be able to solve new problems. The architecture is an abstraction of an interacting system of relatively simple components that, when properly interconnected, should enable the spontaneous emergence of behaviors from the complete system that would not necessarily be expected from the individual components. These emergent behaviors should enable a robot to interact robustly and intelligently with a complex, dynamic environment.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences

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Hypothetical Scenario Generator for Fault-Tolerant Diagnosis

This is a means of performing diagnostic reasoning when data are missing. The Hypothetical Scenario Generator for Fault-tolerant Diagnostics (HSG) is an algorithm being developed in conjunction with other components of artificial- intelligence systems for automated diagnosis and prognosis of faults in spacecraft, aircraft, and other complex engineering systems. By incorporating prognostic capabilities along with advanced diagnostic capabilities, these developments hold promise to increase the safety and affordability of the affected engineering systems by making it possible to obtain timely and accurate information on the statuses of the systems and predicting impending failures well in advance.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Dr. Richard Boyle, Director, BioVIS Technology Center

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA Dr. Richard BoyleMedical imaging technology has led to quicker diagnoses of conditions that, when caught early, can be treated. However, because such devices are large, they are impractical in the limited area of a space vehicle. An on-going NASA project to address the issue involves image fusion, where in-orbit ultrasounds would be combined with previously done Earth-bound scans that are more informative. Dr. Richard Boyle is the principal investigator.

Posted in: Who's Who

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Delivery System for Controlled Release of Actives

A technology is sought that will enable delivery of active cleaning compositions triggered at a specific time/place by a large range of conditions. The solution must be environmentally safe, must function at a pH range between seven and 11 and temperatures between 5 and 80°C, be compatible for use with chemicals in liquid or solid form, and be suitable for use in a mass-market consumer product. It must not inhibit homogenous mixing of the active material into solutions or onto substrates after dispensing.

Posted in: NASA Tech Needs

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Remote Cloud-Height and Visibility Sensing

A small, low-power automatic sensor technology is needed to determine the cloud coverage, cloud ceiling height between 3,000 to 20,000 feet, and visibility up to at least five miles. These measurements must be provided in day and night conditions. The devices need to be small for easy placement at remote sites (not necessarily near cities or airports) and must operate autonomously.

Posted in: NASA Tech Needs

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