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NASA's Hot 100 Technologies: Sensors

Gas Sensors Based on Coated and Doped Carbon Nanotubes Electronic, inexpensive, low-power gas sensors are based on single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) and provide a method for gas detection by coating or doping the SWCNTs with suitable materials. Applications include detection of flammable gases for the petrochemical industry, methane detection for the mine safety industry, environmental monitoring of toxic industrial gases, and monitoring gases in a patient’s breath.

Posted in: Sensors, Techs for License, Articles

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The Stealth E-Bike: Challenges in Developing the First Fully Integrated Drive System for E-Bikes

The idea of a bike with pedal assistance is very old, dating back to 1860, when pedal assistance was thought of as a steam machine that would give power to the back wheel of a bike. In 1895, the first direct-drive hub motor was developed, which, as a concept, still remains today. In 1897, the first idea for a mid-drive system was born, but wasn’t quite a finished idea. In 1898, the idea was developed of a direct-drive motor that is concentric with a shaft that powers a rotor atop the rear tire to make a friction drive. As decades went on, other concepts for e-bikes were developed, using drive systems only in the front wheel or the back wheel. FAZUA is launching the future of e-bikes in 2015 with what the company calls the mid-drive 2.0. It’s a mid-drive system with an integrated gear reduction that is smaller, lighter, and integrated in the bike so the e-bike actually still looks and feels like a bike – because it actually still is a bike.

Posted in: Medical, White Papers

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High-Performance Computing Drives A Growing, Evolving Internet of Things

Not too long ago, the idea of bringing intelligence to physical objects in our world and interconnecting them might have seemed like science fiction. Yet it is happening right now, as the phenomenon we call the Internet of Things (IoT) takes shape.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, White Papers

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The Self-Driving Car

Since the first demonstration of a radio-controlled car in 1925, the automotive industry has been seeking to build a reliable driverless vehicle. The safety of robot-quick reflexes and predictive algorithms, combined with the convenience of effortless travel, is appealing. For those who cannot physically drive, an autonomous car allows a new level of freedom. Of the 5.5 million car crashes per year in the United States, 93 per- cent of them have a human cause as the primary factor.1 A self-driving car could reduce such accidents and, as a bonus, use its predictive driving to reduce fuel consumption and traffic congestion.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, White Papers

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Scientists Turn Handheld JCAD into Dual-Use Chemical, Explosives Detector

Scientists at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center recently gave the Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) the ability to detect explosive materials. The original JCAD was developed and fielded to U.S. Forces nearly 25 years ago, to serve as a portable, automatic chemical warfare agent detector. Currently there are approximately 56,000 chemical warfare agent detecting JCADs in service within the Department of Defense. However, recent needs have required scientists to find ways to create a similar portable technology to detect explosive materials. According to the Army, "Future Army forces require the capability to provide support to unified land operations by detecting, locating, identifying, diagnosing, rendering safe, exploiting, and disposing of all explosive ordnance, improvised explosive devices, improvised/homemade explosives, and weapons of mass destruction." Funded through an Army Technology Objective (ATO) program starting in 2010, under the requirement to assess which existing detectors could also detect explosives, ECBC's Point Detection Branch began to research different options. Since so many JCADs are already in the hands of warfighters across all four services, the team explored the possibilities with that technology. ECBC Point Detection Branch handled the technical evaluation of the unit in collaboration with Smiths Detection, who is building the parts for the new capability. While working to make the JCAD an explosives detector, the team had to overcome several challenges. On a programmatic level, the ATO requirement had restrictions against modifying the existing JCAD hardware. Also, the JCAD needed to maintain its original chemical warfare agent detector purpose. Aside from the ATO requirements, making a chemical warfare agent detector into an explosives detector had some scientific challenges. The original JCAD is designed to detect vapors. However, explosive materials are usually low vapor pressure solids. ECBC scientists had to figure out how the JCAD could detect solid explosive materials, without changing the hardware or original intent of the detector. Given these parameters the scientists sought to determine how to modify this detector while essentially keeping it the same. "Many of the emerging chemical threats and explosives share the challenge of presenting little to no detectable vapor for sampling. By conducting research into the detection of solid explosive residues, we have learned valuable lessons that are equally important for detecting nonvolatile solid and liquid chemical agent residues as well," said Dr. Augustus W. Fountain III, senior research scientist for chemistry. The add-on pieces are a new JCAD Rain Cap with a Probe Swab and an inlet. Within the JCAD itself, scientists added two on-demand vapor generators: a calibrant and a dopant. The dopant changes the chemistry of the detector so that it can detect explosives easier. To convert an ordinary JCAD into a JCAD Chemical Explosive Detector (JCAD CED), the existing rain cap is replaced with one that has a new inlet. Once in place, scientists wipe any surface using the probe swab, which then retracts back into the inlet. With a simple button push, the probe swab tip with the explosives sample heats up to a certain temperature, vaporizing the explosive residue. These additional features allow an ordinary JCAD to now have the role of a portable, automated explosives detector. The swab allows users to pick up often-invisible residue from any surface and analyze it. The explosive residue can be transferred and easily detected using the instrument. The JCAD CED can already detect roughly a dozen compounds including TNT, RDX and EGN. Future efforts could increase the number of detectable compounds. Scientists plan to determine the amount of explosives that can be detected and develop a concept of operations. Other goals include developing a methodology for detecting homemade explosives, and reaching a technology readiness level 6. JCAD CED will be demonstrated in a fiscal year 2015 military utility assessment. Source:

Posted in: Sensors, Detectors, Defense, News

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Adaptive Zoom Riflescope Prototype Has Push-Button Magnification

When an Army Special Forces officer‑turned engineer puts his mind to designing a military riflescope, he doesn’t forget the importance of creating something for the soldiers who will carry it that is easy to use, extremely accurate, light‑weight and has long‑lasting battery power. The result is the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR) prototype, developed by Sandia National Laboratories optical engineer Brett Bagwell. At the push of a button, RAZAR can toggle between high and low magnifications, enabling soldiers to zoom in without having to remove their eyes from their targets or their hands from their rifles.

Posted in: Photonics, Optics, Defense, News

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Killer Robots - Army Studies Challenges of Remote Lethality

The military has used and experimented with robots that perform functions such as scouting and surveillance, carrying supplies and detecting and disposing of improvised homemade bombs. However, when it comes to integrating lethality, such as a weapon capable of firing 10 rounds per second onto an unmanned ground vehicle, issues arise such as safety, effectiveness and reliability, as well as military doctrine on how much human involvement is required.

Posted in: Communications, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Defense, News

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