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Lightweight, Flexible Thermal Protection System for Fire Protection
High-Precision Electric Gate for Time-of-Flight Ion Mass Spectrometers
Polyimide Wire Insulation Repair System
Distributed Propulsion Concepts and Superparamagnetic Energy Harvesting Hummingbird Engine
Aerofoam
Wet Active Chevron Nozzle for Controllable Jet Noise Reduction
Magnetic Relief Valve
Active Aircraft Pylon Noise Control System
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Tactile Robotic Topographical Mapping Without Force or Contact Sensors

A “tap test” yields data on a succession of surface points. A method of topographical mapping of a local solid surface within the range of motion of a robot arm is based on detection of contact between the surface and the end effector (the fixture or tool at the tip of the robot arm). The method was conceived to enable mapping of local terrain by an exploratory robot on a remote planet, without need to incorporate delicate contact switches, force sensors, a vision system, or other additional, costly hardware. The method could also be used on Earth for determining the size and shape of an unknown surface in the vicinity of a robot, perhaps in an unanticipated situation in which other means of mapping (e.g., stereoscopic imaging or laser scanning with triangulation) are not available.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics

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Simulating Operation of a Complex Sensor Network

Simulation Tool for ASCTA Microsensor Network Architecture (STAMiNA) [“ASCTA” denotes the Advanced Sensors Collaborative Technology Alliance.] is a computer program for evaluating conceptual sensor networks deployed over terrain to provide military situational awareness. This or a similar program is needed because of the complexity of interactions among such diverse phenomena as sensing and communication portions of a network, deployment of sensor nodes, effects of terrain, data-fusion algorithms, and threat characteristics.

Posted in: Briefs, Software

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Progress in Development of Improved Ion-Channel Biosensors

Improvements in design and fabrication have been made since a previous report. Further improvements have recently been made in the development of the devices described in “Improved Ion-Channel Biosensors” (NPO-30710), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 10 (October 2004), page 30. As discussed in more detail in that article, these sensors offer advantages of greater stability, greater lifetime, and individual electrical addressability, relative to prior ion-channel biosensors.

Posted in: Briefs, Bio-Medical, Medical

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Using Transponders on the Moon to Increase Accuracy of GPS

Ranging to the Moon would be unaffected by the terrestrial atmosphere. It has been proposed to place laser or radio transponders at suitably chosen locations on the Moon to increase the accuracy achievable using the Global Positioning System (GPS) or other satellite-based positioning system. The accuracy of GPS position measurements depends on the accuracy of determination of the ephemerides of the GPS satellites. These ephemerides are determined by means of ranging to and from Earth-based stations and consistency checks among the satellites. Unfortunately, ranging to and from Earth is subject to errors caused by atmospheric effects, notably including unpredictable variations in refraction.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Controller for Driving a Piezoelectric Actuator at Resonance

Unpredictable variations in resonance frequency are tracked. A digital control system based partly on an extremum-seeking control algorithm tracks the changing resonance frequency of a piezoelectric actuator or an electrically similar electromechanical device that is driven by a sinusoidal excitation signal and is required to be maintained at or near resonance in the presence of uncertain, changing external loads and disturbances. Somewhat more specifically, on the basis of measurements of the performance of the actuator, this system repeatedly estimates the resonance frequency and alters the excitation frequency as needed to keep it at or near the resonance frequency. In the original application for which this controller was developed, the piezoelectric actuator is part of an ultrasonic/sonic drill/corer. Going beyond this application, the underlying principles of design and operation are generally applicable to tracking changing resonance frequencies of heavily perturbed harmonic oscillators.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Coaxial Electric Heaters

These devices can be used safely where magnetic fields are not tolerated. Coaxial electric heaters have been conceived for use in highly sensitive instruments in which there are requirements for compact heaters but stray magnetic fields associated with heater electric currents would adversely affect operation. Such instruments include atomic clocks and magnetometers that utilize heated atomic-sample cells, wherein stray magnetic fields at picotesla levels could introduce systematic errors into instrument readings.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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High-Density, High-Bandwidth, Multilevel Holographic Memory

Multiple terabytes could be read or written at a multigigahertz rate. A proposed holographic memory system would be capable of storing data at unprecedentedly high density, and its data-transfer performance in both reading and writing would be characterized by exceptionally high bandwidth. The capabilities of the proposed system would greatly exceed even those of a state-of-the art memory system, based on binary holograms (in which each pixel value represents 0 or 1), that can hold ≈1 terabyte of data and can support a reading or writing rate as high as 1 Gb/s.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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