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AMORPHOUS ALLOY SURPASSES STEEL AND TITANIUM

In the same way that the inventions of steel in the 1800s and plastic in the 1900s sparked revolutions for industry, a new class of amorphous alloys is poised to redefine materials science as we know it in the 21st century.

Posted in: NTB, Spinoff

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HEATING AND COOLING EFFICIENCY FOR HOMES

Over 40 years ago, NASA developed Radiant Barrier technology to protect astronauts in the Apollo Program from temperatures that ranged from 250 °F above to 400 °F below zero Fahrenheit. This feat in temperature control technology enabled the astronauts to work inside the Apollo Command Module wearing short-sleeve shirts, with temperatures similar to those of a regular business office. The Radiant Barrier has been applied to virtually all spacecraft since then, including unmanned spacecraft with delicate instruments that need protection from temperature extremes. It is also applied to the astronauts space suits, protecting them during space walks.

Posted in: NTB, Spinoff

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ARTIFICIAL MUSCLE KITS FOR THE CLASSROOM

Commonly referred to as artificial muscles, electroactive polymer (EAP) materials are lightweight strips of highly flexible plastic that bend or stretch when subjected to electric voltage. EAP materials may prove to be a substitution for conventional actuation components such as motors and gears. Since the materials behave similarly to biological muscles, this emerging technology has the potential to develop improved prosthetics and biologically-inspired robots, and may even one day replace damaged human muscles. The practical application of artificial muscles provides a challenge, however, since the material requires improved effectiveness and durability before it can fulfill its potenti

Posted in: NTB, Spinoff

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A NATURAL WAY TO STAY SWEET

A revolutionary, low-calorie sugar is now available to the food and beverage market, offering an all-natural alternative to table sugar and artificial sweeteners. Tagatose, a sugar that appears in nature in small quantities, began its unusual journey to the commercial market nearly 30 years ago, when Dr. Gilbert V. Levin invented a life detection experiment to place aboard NASA's Mars Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers. The experiment involved using radiation-laced nutrients to determine the presence of microbial life in Martian soil samples.

Posted in: NTB, Spinoff

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DAMPING GOES THE DISTANCE IN GOLF

In the late 1980s, Dr. Benjamin Dolgin of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed a concept for a high-damping graphite/viscoelastic material for the Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly referred to as Star Wars), as part of a space-based laser anti-missile program called Asterix. Dolgin drummed up this concept with the intention of stabilizing weapons launch platforms in space, where there is no solid ground to firmly support these structures. Without the inclusion of high-damping material, the orbital platforms were said to vibrate for 20 minutes after force was applied a rate deemed unacceptable by leaders of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Posted in: NTB, Spinoff

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Smart Suits

In the near future, you may get up in the morning, put on a "smart" T-shirt, and automatically have your health monitored. When it's dirty, the shirt gets washed or dry-cleaned. Researchers from the University of South Australia have developed smart garments with tiny embedded electronics that can monitor your heart or respiratory function wirelessly. The garments, when placed on electronic hangers, enable monitored data to be downloaded in a heartbeat to a computer in your wardrobe, and then they are recharged and ready for wearing. Professor Bruce Thomas, researcher and director of UniSAís Wearable Computer Laboratory, explains that for continuous monitoring, "you can take off one garment and put on another smart garment so, instead of having just one heart monitor, you can have a wardrobe of them." The wardrobe has a touchscreen on the outside and conductive metal bands spanning the hanging rail inside, with wires connecting it to a computer in the base of the wardrobe. When electronic hangers, each with their own ID and metal connection, are placed on the rail, it detects the hangers and smart garments incorporating the conductive material and integrated electronics. Through this connection, the computer identifies that hanger 123 has coat 45 on it, which has stored heart monitoring data that needs to be downloaded, and the hanger needs to be recharged. Garments with communication technology only and a wireless connection enable users to access heart monitoring through a Bluetooth or Zigbee network, eliminating the need for expensive heart monitoring equipment to be placed in each garment. Future garments could be used for monitoring at home, for outpatient care, and for people with dementia, who can be monitored with minimal intervention. Find out more here.

Posted in: Blog

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Current Attractions

Each month, NTB highlights tech briefs related to a particular area of technology in a special section called Technology Focus. Here are some of the technologies featured in the July issue focus on Sensors. "Smart" Sensor Module Stennis Space Center has developed an assembly that contains a sensor, signal conditioning circuitry, a sensor readout analog-to-digital converter, data storage circuitry, and a microprocessor that runs software. The module monitors the integrity and health of engineering systems. They have potential uses in spacecraft, aircraft, bridges, buildings, power plants, and land vehicles. (Page 22) Portable Apparatus for Electrochemical Sensing of Ethylene Researchers at Kennedy Space Center have developed a small, lightweight apparatus based on electrochemical sensing for monitoring low concentrations of ethylene in air. The thick-film-type sensor can be used in the agriculture industry for monitoring and controlling ethylene concentrations in order to optimize the growth, storage, and ripening of plant products. (Page 24) Read previously published tech briefs on Sensors and other technologies here.

Posted in: Blog

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