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Spongelike Structure Converts Solar Energy into Steam

A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun.The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.The new material is able to convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam — a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation.“Steam is important for desalination, hygiene systems, and sterilization,” says Hadi Ghasemi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, who led the development of the structure. “Especially in remote areas where the sun is the only source of energy, if you can generate steam with solar energy, it would be very useful.”SourceAlso: See other Energy tech briefs.

Posted in: Materials, Solar Power, Energy Harvesting, Energy, News

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Astronauts to Test Free-Flying Robotic 'Smart SPHERES'

Three bowling ball-size free-flying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying inside the International Space Station since 2006. These satellites provide a test bed for development and research, each having its own power, propulsion, computer, navigation equipment, and physical and electrical connections for hardware and sensors for various experiments.Aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.'s second contracted commercial resupply mission to the space station, which arrived to the orbital laboratory on July 16, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, sent two Google prototype Project Tango smartphones that astronauts will attach to the SPHERES for technology demonstrations inside the space station. By connecting a smartphone to the SPHERES, the technology becomes "Smart SPHERES, " a more "intelligent" free-flying robot with built-in cameras to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, powerful computing units to make calculations and Wi-Fi connections to transfer data in real time to the computers aboard the space station and at mission control in Houston.In a two-phase experiment, astronauts will manually use the smartphones to collect visual data using the integrated custom 3-D sensor to generate a full 3-D model of their environment. After the map and its coordinate system are developed, a second activity will involve the smartphones attached to the SPHERES, becoming the free-flying Smart SPHERES. As the free-flying robots move around the space station from waypoint to waypoint, utilizing the 3-D map, they will provide situational awareness to crewmembers inside the station and flight controllers in mission control. These experiments allow NASA to test vision-based navigation in a very small mobile product.SourceAlso: Learn about Automatic Lunar Rock Detection and Mapping.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Power Management, PCs/Portable Computers, Cameras, Video, Visualization Software, Imaging, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Communications, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, RF & Microwave Electronics, News

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SansEC: Electrical Sensors with No Electrical Connections

SansEC is a NASA-developed wireless sensor technology that is damage tolerant and requires no electrical connections. Unlike other sensors, a SansEC sensor can be designed for measurements unrelated to each other - like temperature and fluid level - and easily switch from one to another or do both simultaneously.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars

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Why Choose Polymer Capacitors?

            Polymer Capacitors offer a multitude of advantages over many other capacitor technologies. With over 15 years of experience in the field, this technology has expanded to nearly every segment of the electronics industry, including military and avionics applications in recent years. As the trends for electronic components continue to move toward smaller package sizes, higher reliability and lower parasitic properties, polymer capacitors continue to gain momentum with no other capacitor technologies being able to deliver an equal level of performance.

Posted in: Tech Talks

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Dr. Keith Gendreau, Principal Investigator, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

Dr. Keith Gendreau is the principal investigator of the upcoming Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) mission. He was the 2011 Innovator of the Year at Goddard Space Flight Center, and he has been developing X-ray detectors, optics, and other instrumentation to support a number of NASA missions.

Posted in: Who's Who

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Are Driverless Car Concerns Overblown?

According to a newly released FBI report, the driverless cars of the future could aid criminals by introducing the potential for “multitasking.” The report also said that the cars themselves could be turned into “lethal weapons” by evildoers. The report, however, also stated that the autonomous cars could allow authorities to respond more effectively to incidents.

Posted in: Question of the Week

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FMC and VPX Enable Rapid Development of Embedded Products

The VMEbus has been the standard of embedded system design for three decades. In the defense industry, for instance, it is typically used for such applications as signal acquisition and processing. As FPGA technology has advanced to feature improved analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog devices, new industry standards, better I/O, more memory, additional DSP options and more efficient power usage, a move to the next generation of VMEbus-based systems has been necessary to make the best use of those resources.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars

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