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NASA Tests Revolutionary E-Sail Propulsion Technology

Testing has started at NASA on a concept called the Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS), a propellant-less propulsion system that would harness solar wind to travel into interstellar space. “The sun releases protons and electrons into the solar wind at very high speeds -- 400 to 750 kilometers per second,” said Bruce Wiegmann an engineer in Marshall’s Advanced Concepts Office and the principal investigator for the HERTS E-Sail. “The E-Sail would use these protons to propel the spacecraft.”

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Slim Wing Can Reduce Aircraft Fuel Use and Emissions by 50%

NASA and Boeing are designing a longer, thinner, and lighter wing that requires a brace, or truss, to provide it with extra support. The lower-drag wing will reduce both fuel burn and carbon emissions by at least 50% over current-technology transport aircraft, and by 4 to 8% compared to equivalent advanced-technology conventional configurations with unbraced wings.

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Material Sniffs Out Fuel Leaks and Fuel-Based Explosives

Alkane fuel is a key ingredient in combustible material such as airplane fuel. Yet it’s difficult to detect and there are no portable scanners available that can sniff out the odorless and colorless vapor. University of Utah engineers developed fiber material for a handheld scanner that can detect small traces of alkane fuel vapor, a valuable advancement that could be an early-warning signal for leaks in an airliner, or for locating a terrorist’s explosive.

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New Material Eliminates the Need for Aircraft Deicers

Scientists have developed a liquid-like substance that can make aircraft wings and other surfaces so slippery that ice cannot adhere. The slick substance is secreted from a film on the wing’s surface as temperatures drop below freezing and retreats back into the film as temperatures rise. The liquid-secreting materials are called self-lubricating organogels, or SLUGs.

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Will you wear “e-textiles”?

This week's Question: Researchers at The Ohio State University have embroidered circuits into fabric with 0.1-mm precision — an ideal size to integrate electronic components, such as sensors and computer memory devices, into clothing. With the advance, the team has taken the next step toward the design of functional textiles — clothes that gather, store, or transmit digital information. The development could lead to shirts that act as antennas for your smartphone, workout clothes that monitor your fitness level, a bandage that monitors your health, or even a flexible fabric cap that senses brain activity. What do you think? Will you wear “e-textiles”?  

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Wild Mushrooms Support New Battery Anodes

Researchers at Purdue University have created electrodes from a species of wild fungus called Tyromyces fissilis.  Carbon fibers derived from the sustainable source have been shown to outperform conventional graphite electrodes for lithium-ion batteries.

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Scientists Create Reflection-Removing Camera

In recent years, computer scientists have been investigating a range of techniques for removing reflections from digital photographs shot through glass. Some have tried to use variability in focal distance or the polarization of light; others, like those at MIT, have exploited the fact that a pane of glass produces not one but two reflections, slightly offset from each other. This led to them developing a system that fires light into a scene and gauges the differences between the arrival times of light reflected by nearby objects — such as panes of glass — and more distant objects.

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