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NASA Engineers Tapped to Build First Integrated-Photonics Modem

A NASA team has been tapped to build a new type of communications modem that will employ an emerging, potentially revolutionary technology that could transform everything from telecommunications, medical imaging, and advanced manufacturing to national defense. The space agency’s first-ever integrated-photonics modem will be tested aboard the International Space Station beginning in 2020 as part of NASA’s multi-year Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, or LCRD. The cell phone-sized device incorporates optics-based functions, such as lasers, switches, and wires, onto a microchip — much like an integrated circuit found in all electronics hardware. Once aboard the space station, the so-called Integrated LCRD LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) User Modem and Amplifier (ILLUMA) will serve as a low-Earth orbit terminal for NASA’s LCRD, demonstrating yet another capability for high-speed, laser-based communications.

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Smart Camera

The new EyeCheck 9xxx series ready-to-use smart camera by EVT (Karlsruhe, Germany) is available as a complete system with integrated EyeVision image processing software or as an OEM version. The OEM solution is also available in a board version without housing and it can be easily programmed with C or C++. Both versions are Linux smart cameras and have FPGA and DualCore ARM CPUs. The OEM version allows the user to select between two FPGA ZYNQs called Raze1 and Raze2. The EyeCheck 9000 smart camera with EyeVision is suitable for applications such as pattern matching, code reading (bar code, DMC, QR), OCR/OCV, object detection, measurement technology, surface inspection and many more.

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'Cockroach' Robots Squeeze Through Cracks

UC Berkeley biologists have found robotic inspiration in the creepy ability of cockroaches to squeeze through even the tiniest crack.

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Product of the Month

MSC Software Corp., Newport Beach, CA, announced the release of Marc 2015 nonlinear and multiphysics simulation software. Enhancements include new material models to simulate complex dynamic behavior of elastomers, permanent deformation of thermoplastics, and anisotropic plastic deformation in metal forming. The software provides a cohesive contact behavior that allows users to apply a finite stiffness in the normal and tangential direction, improving stress results in the contact zones and the overall deformation. A new family of elements has improved bending behavior compared to traditional lower order triangular and tetrahedral elements, and can be used for either compressible or nearly incompressible behavior. Two new global adaptive meshing methods are included, as well as improvements to Mentat, the user interface of Marc.

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Would you like to ride in a Hyperloop?

This week's Question: A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team took top honors this month at a competition to design the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation concept from Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. In the absence of air or surface friction, the Hyperloop design enables passenger pods to travel through airless tubes at more than 600 mph. Using low-energy propulsion systems, the Hyperloop theoretically utilizes air pressure to “hover” above a track. MIT's team will now have the opportunity to build and test its design in the US. The researchers will perform simulations, try out braking systems, and, with great caution, test dangerously strong magnets. What do you think? Would you like to ride in a Hyperloop? 

Posted in: Question of the Week

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'Proximity Hat' Reveals Surroundings in Real Time

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) researchers have developed a "Proximity Hat" that uses head pressure to inform users about their surroundings. The ultrasonic sensors, batteries, and pressure pads can be worn like a hat or headband.

Posted in: News, Detectors, Sensors, Transducers

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New 3D-Printed Part Allows NASA to Measure Sea Ice

Slated for launch in 2018, NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will carry a 3D-printed part made of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), a material that has never been used in additive manufacturing, let alone flown in space.

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