Special Coverage

Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
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

NbxTi1–xN Superconducting-Nanowire Single-Photon Detectors

Potential applications include optical communications and quantum cryptography.

Superconducting- nanowire single-photon detectors (SNSPDs) in which NbxTi1–xN (where x

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Optics, Conductivity, Nanomaterials

Miniature Incandescent Lamps as Fiber-Optic Light Sources

These lamps can be used without coupling optics.

Miniature incandescent lamps of a special type have been invented to satisfy a need for compact, rapid- response, rugged, broadband, power- efficient, fiber-optic- coupled light sources for diverse purposes that could include calibrating spectrometers, interrogating optical sensors, spot illumination, and spot heating. A lamp of this type (see figure) includes a re-entrant planar spiral filament mounted within a ceramic package heretofore normally used to house an integrated-circuit chip. The package is closed with a window heretofore normally used in ultraviolet illumination to erase volatile electronic memories. The size and shape of the filament and the proximity of the filament to the window are such that light emitted by the filament can be coupled efficiently to an optical fiber without intervening optics.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Exterior lighting, Downsizing, Fiber optics, Interior lighting

Prism Window for Optical Alignment

Prism windows could be generally useful in manufacture of optical instruments.

A prism window has been devised for use, with an autocollimator, in aligning optical components that are (1) required to be oriented parallel to each other and/or at a specified angle of incidence with respect to a common optical path and (2) mounted at different positions along the common optical path. The prism window can also be used to align a single optical component at a specified angle of incidence. Prism windows could be generally useful for orienting optical components in manufacture of optical instruments.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Optics

Range-Gated Metrology With Compact Optical Head

A compact, single-fiber optical head requires minimal internal alignment.

This work represents a radical simplification in the design of the optical head needed for high-precision laser ranging applications. The optical head is now a single fiber-optic collimator with dimensions of order of 1×1×2 cm, which can be easily integrated into the system being measured with minimal footprint. Previous heads were significantly larger, with multiple optical elements requiring careful alignment. The new design has only one optical fiber per head, rather than four, making it much easier to multiplex between tens or hundreds of heads. It is capable of subnanometer precision, consistent with the demanding requirements of new missions.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Measurements, Fiber optics, Lasers, Nanotechnology

NASA Technology Prize Competitions – Summer 2008

NASA has a program of technology prizes currently consisting of seven competitions held throughout the year. The program, which began in 2005, is known as Centennial Challenges in recognition of the centennial of powered flight. In keeping with the spirit of the Wright Brothers and other American innovators, the Centennial Challenge prizes are offered to independent competitors who work without government support including small businesses, student groups and garage inventors. The prize competitions are targeted at a range of technical challenges that support NASA’s missions in aeronautics and space. The goal is to encourage novel solutions from non-traditional sources. In the Centennial Challenge program, NASA offers the prize money but each of the competitions is managed by an independent organization, sometimes with additional private sponsorship.

Posted in: NASA Tech Needs

Interview with Drew Feustel, Astronaut, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Astronaut Drew Feustel is scheduled to fly aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery when it makes what is projected to be the final manned mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Feustel will perform three of the five spacewalks planned for that mission.

Posted in: Podcasts

Wireless Electronic Patches Improve Medical Data and Patient Mobility

Non-invasive and ambulatory monitoring of body parameters is receiving much interest from the medical, sports and entertainment world. Possible applications are the monitoring of brain waves to detect epilepsy, monitoring of muscle activity during an athlete’s training, and monitoring of heart rate during gaming. The idea is to develop small, low-power, autonomous biomedical monitoring systems that collect and process data from human body sensors and wirelessly transmit the data to a central monitoring system.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Application Briefs

Omniscient Code Generation for 8-, 16- and 32-bit Microcontrollers

C-language programs are usually developed by teams of engineers who are often geographically dispersed, leading to redundant code and inconsistent variable declarations between modules. Traditional compilation technology compiles each module separately with no regard for what goes on in the other modules and with no information about how pointers, stacks, variables and functions are used throughout the whole program. Traditional compilers tend to over-allocate memory space for pointers, stacks and registers. They are unable to fully exploit the wide variety of memory maps, and register and stack configurations available in today’s microcontrollers. All too often, the programmer must resort to manual optimizations that compromise portability (Figure 1).

Posted in: Articles, Articles

Using AdvancedTCA and MicroTCA in High-Availability Military Systems

The complexity of military and aerospace systems is growing — more components, interfaces, power, bandwidth, processing, features, and data — and these systems are being networked to form even more complex “systems of systems.” Modern networkcentric systems can contain hundreds, even thousands of electronic modules.

Posted in: Articles, Articles

Multipurpose Transaction Protocol: A New Data Transport Model

It is no secret that high-performance and the Internet are often seen as contradictory terms. Even private IP networks see serious performance challenges once they extend beyond the local building and around the globe. As devices and their users become more mobile, it has become critical to design with high-speed, Wide Area Networks in mind. But software and hardware designers are traditionally given few choices and little control for ensuring high network performance.

Posted in: Articles, Articles

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