Special Coverage

Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applicationst
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research
Small Robot Has Outstanding Vertical Agility
Smart Optical Material Characterization System and Method
Lightweight, Flexible Thermal Protection System for Fire Protection
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Signal Processing Methods Monitor Cranial Pressure

When you think of a beating heart, you might assume it beats at regular intervals, but in actuality, velocity and pressure change with every beat, and the time interval between each beat is different. Now a NASA-developed technology is helping researchers understand blood flow and pressure in ways that may improve treatment for victims of brain injury and stroke.

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Aerogels Insulate Against Extreme Temperatures

“When you hold a piece of silica aerogel, it feels otherworldly. If you drop it on a table top, it has an acoustic ring to it. It sounds like a crystal glass hitting the table,” describes George Gould, the director of research and development at Aspen Aerogels Inc. Similar in chemical structure to glass, aerogels have gas or air in their pores instead of liquid. Developed in the United States nearly 80 years ago by a man named Samuel Stephens Kistler, an aerogel is an open-celled material that is typically comprised of more than 95 percent air. With individual pores less than 1/10,000th the diameter of a human hair, or just a few nanometers, the nanoporous nature of aerogel is what gives it the lowest thermal conductivity of any known solid. The remarkable characteristics of silica aerogel—low density, light weight, and unmatched insulating capability—attracted NASA for cryogenic insulation for space shuttle and space exploration mission applications. For example, when a shuttle is fueled, it requires more than half a million gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. To remain a liquid, hydrogen must stay at a cold -253 °C and liquid oxygen must remain at -183 °C. The systems necessary to deliver, store, and transfer these cryogenic liquids call for high-performance insulation technology at all steps along the way and into space.

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Ultraviolet-Blocking Lenses Protect, Enhance Vision

In the 1980s, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists James Stephens and Charles Miller were studying the harmful properties of light in space, as well as that of artificial radiation produced during laser and welding work. The intense light emitted during welding can harm unprotected eyes, leading to a condition called arc eye, in which ultraviolet light causes inflammation of the cornea and long-term retinal damage.

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Hyperspectral Systems Increase Imaging Capabilities

While the human eye can see a range of phenomena in the world, there is a larger range that it cannot see. Without the aid of technology, people are limited to seeing wavelengths of visible light, a tiny range within the electromagnetic spectrum. Hyperspectral imaging, however, allows people to get a glimpse at how objects look in the ultraviolet (UV) and infrared wavelengths—the ranges on either side of visible light on the spectrum.

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Compact Radiometers Expand Climate Knowledge

NASA not only peers up to gather information about space; it also peers down to gather information about Earth. As part of the Science Mission Directorate, NASA’s Earth Science Program aims to improve predictions about climate, weather, and natural hazards by understanding Earth’s response to natural and human-induced changes. One way scientists are tracking these changes is by monitoring the Earth’s soil moisture and ocean salinity.

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Programs Model the Future of Air Traffic Management

Try describing the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS), and you will inevitably end up rattling off a series of large numbers. There are more than 87,000 flights—commercial, general aviation, military, chartered, cargo—every day; about 5,000 flights in the air at any given moment; and more than 14,000 air traffic controllers working to manage the safety of all of these flights, including an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings a year (more than 7,000 every hour). In addition, there are more than 19,000 airports; 600 air traffic control facilities; more than 70,000 radar systems, communications relays, and other equipment; and thousands of technicians and safety inspectors. The NAS includes all of these components and others, like the 660 million passengers and 37 billion cargo-revenue tons of freight that crisscross the Nation every year. Even the weather is considered part of the NAS.

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Image Sensors Enhance Camera Technologies

Buzz Aldrin standing on the stark surface of the Moon. The towering gas pillars of the Eagle Nebula. The rocky, rust-colored expanses of Mars. Among NASA’s successes in space exploration have been the indelible images the Agency’s efforts have returned to Earth. From the Hubble Space Telescope to the Hasselblad cameras in the hands of Apollo astronauts, many of NASA’s missions involve technologies that deliver unprecedented views of our universe, providing fuel for scientific inquiry and the imagination. Less known than Hubble’s galactic vistas or the Mars rovers’ panoramic landscapes is the impact NASA has had on the era of digital photography on Earth. While the first digital camera was built by Eastman Kodak in 1975, the first to actually develop the concept of the digital camera was Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer Eugene Lally, who in the 1960s described the use of mosaic photosensors to digitize light signals and produce still images. During the following decades, NASA continued the work of developing small, light, and robust image sensors practical for use in the extreme environment of space.

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