Special Coverage

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines

Optical Sensor for Unknown Gas Detection

A new sensor combines two spectroscopy methods in one device for flexibility and high sensitivity.

Gas sensors are usually engineered to detect a specific molecule in one of many potential categories: toxic gases, combustible gases, and VOCs. A number of technologies, such as infrared, photoionization, catalytic, and electrochemical, are used to test for differing molecular species. Each method has specifications for resolution, sensitivity, temperature, and humidity range. Gas sensors are most useful when they have high sensitivity and flexibility in the gases they can detect.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Occupancy Sensing Using Wi-Fi Routers

In 2015, commercial and residential buildings accounted for 40% of the energy consumption in the United States according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As the owners of these buildings seek to decrease costs and reduce energy consumption they have begun to adopt building energy management systems (BEMS). BEMS have developed alongside intelligent building technologies such as sensors and wireless networks to manage energy usage, and according to expert services firm Navigant, the global BEMS market is expected to grow at an estimated CAGR of 18.2% to $12.8 Billion in 2025.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Expert in A Suitcase Cuts Power Bills 10% In Small Commercial Buildings

Sensor Suitcase is designed to make energy efficiency easier.

The Sensor Suitcase is a portable case that contains easy-to-use sensors and other equipment that make it possible for anyone to identify energy-saving opportunities in small commercial buildings. The automated and reusable system combines hardware and software in one package so its users can identify cost-effective measures that can save small commercial buildings about 10 percent on their energy bills. It helps someone with minimal training collect and automatically process building data, which the system uses to generate specific recommendations to improve energy efficiency.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Clean Water with Sandia Sensor Solution

A new sensor is the heart of an easy-to-use, table-top tool that quickly and cheaply detects extremely low levels of trihalomethane.

Water utilities have a Goldilocks problem: If they don't add enough chlorine, nasty bacteria that cause typhoid and cholera survive the purification process. Too much chlorine produces disinfection byproducts such as chloroform, which increase cancer risks. The amount of chlorine needs to be “just right” for safe drinking water.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Project Helps Provide More Precise Detection and Understanding of Seismic Activity In Oklahoma

A network of sensors was used to study what properties lead to induced seismicity.

Induced seismicity is earthquake activity that occurs because of changes in subsurface stress brought about by human activity. Using geology, geophysics, reservoir modeling, and rock mechanics to develop assessment models, this project evaluated the potential for, and increase in, seismic activity in central Oklahoma, including the relationship between oil and gas operations and induced seismicity. The study confirmed and more fully investigated the link between increased seismic activity and wastewater disposal, which significantly increased between July 1, 2014, and the end of 2015. Over the course of the study, more than 95 percent of the earthquakes in Oklahoma occurred in a small portion of the state, where about 70 percent of wastewater was injected.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Flying Metal Detectors?

Navy tests new unmanned mine-detection system.

Scientists have demonstrated a new way to detect buried and submerged mines. Data is collected by sensors aboard an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The information can then be used to create images to display locations of submerged mines on a device such as an Android. The system was demonstrated by successfully identifying a submerged dummy mine and differentiating it from surrounding debris.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Printed Sensors Monitor Tire Wear in Real Time

Carbon nanotubes bring tire wear monitoring into the car.

Electrical engineers at Duke University have invented an inexpensive printed sensor that can monitor the tread of car tires in real time, warning drivers when the rubber meeting the road has grown dangerously thin. If adopted, the device will increase safety, improve vehicle performance, and reduce fuel consumption.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Self-Regulating, Freezable Heat Exchanger for Spacecraft

Freeze-tolerant tubing can be used in home and commercial sprinkler systems and water supply lines.

Aspacecraft thermal control system must keep the vehicle, avionics, and atmosphere (if crewed) within a defined temperature range. Water coolant loops are typically used to transport heat to or from the cabin of a crewed spacecraft via heat exchangers to the heat sink systems that reject the heat to space. Water is non-toxic and good for heat transport, but it has a high freeze point. Thus, there is concern that the water loop can freeze and damage the thermal control system unless a low-freeze-point intermediate fluid loop is included. Incorporating a freeze-tolerant water/ice heat exchanger can eliminate this risk, and offers a novel approach to spacecraft thermal control, since parts of the heat exchanger can be selectively frozen to passively increase the turndown of the heat rejection rate. In addition, it has the potential to simplify the thermal control system and thereby reduce its size and mass.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

Low-Power, Lightweight, Ultra-Compact Reverse Water Gas Shift Reactor

This reactor can be used to produce reagents for methanol, formaldehyde, acetic acid, or ethylene production.

Utilizing CO2 to produce H2O and O2 is critical for sustained manned missions in space, and supports both NASA’s cabin Atmosphere Revitalization System (ARS) and ln-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) concepts. For long-term missions beyond low Earth orbit where resupply of consumables is significantly more difficult and costly, open-loop ARS can reduce the effectiveness of consumables recovery. The Bosch process has the potential to achieve complete loop closure for 100% O2 recovery; however, it has several limitations, including reactor fouling and low single-pass efficiency. NASA MSFC has been developing an innovative Bosch system comprising a Reverse Water Gas Shift (RWGS) reactor and a downstream Carbon Formation reactor that would significantly improve the overall O2 recovery.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

Linear Encoders Enable More Accurate Observation of the Sun

HEIDENHAIN Corporation
Schaumburg, IL

Scientists know surprisingly little about what happens on the Sun. Solar researchers want to change this with the new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics (KIS) in Freiburg, Germany is developing a Visible Tunable Filter (VTF) for this project. With a mirror diameter of four meters, it will be the largest solar telescope in the world, and therefore will provide a very detailed view of the Sun’s surface. The filter adjustment is controlled by HEIDENHAIN linear encoders with an accuracy of under one nanometer.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Imaging, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics

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