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Propulsion Technology Could Combat Flight Pollution

A breakthrough propulsion technology to provide greener air transport could be developed after the underlying engineering was declared a success. Six universities and two research organizations from across the EU demonstrated the scientific feasibility of a novel propulsion method that overcomes the main limitations of traditional systems related to jet deflection exhausts.

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Mini Models Fire Up to Test Space Launch System

NASA is working with CUBRC Inc. of Buffalo, NY to design, build, and test 2% scale models of the Space Launch System (SLS) propulsion system. Models include two five-segment solid rocket boosters and four core stage RS-25 engines, and a 2% scale model of the entire rocket. The models are fired for short durations of about 50-150 milliseconds per test.

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UAVs to Play Critical Role in Precision Agriculture

Researchers are investigating how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used commercially in agriculture. Their size, cost and capabilities make UAVs useful for a wide range of jobs. Mississippi State University researchers are already using these vehicles, and many others are examining their potential applications, including flying a camera on a drone to get instant aerial views of research fields. A flyover could identify problem spots in extremely large fields, and then researchers, crop consultants, or farmers could go to the identified areas and examine them carefully to make proper diagnoses. The information gathered by soil-moisture sensors could be compared to the information that could be gathered by drones. Technology already exists to allow producers to make very specific chemical applications to their fields with farm equipment. UAVs can help them target these applications even more precisely. Source:

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Radio Chip Reduces Power Leakage

To realize the "Internet of things” — the idea that all parts of the human environment, from kitchen appliances to industrial equipment, could be equipped with sensors and processors that exchange data — transmitters must be energy-efficient enough to last for months. A group researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new transmitter design that reduces off-state leakage 100-fold. The design provides adequate power for Bluetooth transmission, or for the longer-range 802.15.4 wireless-communication protocol. While semiconductors are not naturally very good conductors, neither are they perfect insulators. Even when no charge is applied to the gate, some current still leaks across the transistor. The leakage is reduced by applying a negative charge to the gate when the transmitter is idle. The charge drives electrons away from the electrical leads, making the semiconductor a much better insulator. In tests conducted on a prototype chip fabricated through the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s research program, the MIT researchers found that their circuit spent only 20 picowatts of power to save 10,000 picowatts in leakage. To generate the negative charge efficiently, the MIT researchers use a circuit known as a charge pump, which is a small network of capacitors — electronic components that can store charge — and switches. When the charge pump is exposed to the voltage that drives the chip, charge builds up in one of the capacitors. Throwing one of the switches connects the positive end of the capacitor to the ground, causing a current to flow out the other end. Source Also: Read other Electronics tech briefs.    

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Axle Design Enables Scalable Electric Drive for Vehicles

The future belongs to electric motors, and commercial vehicles are no exception. To date, however, many attempts to develop electric motors for commercial vehicles have stalled at the prototype stage or are extremely expensive. The Electric Scalable Axle Module (ESKAM) project is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The team is developing an axle module for commercial vehicles, consisting of a motor, gearbox, and power electronics. Everything fits neatly and compactly into a shared housing, which is fitted in the respective vehicle using a special frame construction also developed by the project scientists. The axle module presents numerous advantages. For example, it has a high power density and a very high torque. Because the module is scalable, it can be used in everything from small vans and municipal vehicles, to buses and trucks. With a wheel hub motor, that would not be possible. While wheel hub motors have definite advantages, they are not suitable for commercial vehicles, as they scarcely deliver more than 2,000 rpm. Source:

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Football Stadium Stomping Helps Track Real Earthquakes

Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network installed instruments to provide real-time monitoring of the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium movement during the 2015 NFL playoffs. The network monitors earthquake and volcanic activity throughout the region. Scientists first got interested in football when a seismometer a block away from the stadium showed vibrations during Marshawn Lynch’s legendary Jan. 8, 2011 touchdown run. The resulting seismograph coined the term “Beast Quake.” A Beast Quake happens when the energetic jumping and stomping of so many fans at once shakes the stadium and reverberates through the surrounding soil. The foot-stomping is a real-world test of technology to detect the bigger shaking that originates underground. The seismic group is working with the U.S. Geological Survey to offer early warnings that could provide tens of seconds to several minutes’ notice of an incoming strong shaking. Source:

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Octopus Robot Makes Waves with Ultra-Fast Propulsion

Scientists have developed an octopus-like robot that can zoom through water with ultra-fast propulsion and acceleration never before seen in man-made underwater vehicles. The octopus is capable of high speeds by filling its body with water and then quickly expelling it to dart away. Inspired by this, scientists built the robot with a 3D-printed skeleton with no moving parts and no energy storage device other than a thin elastic outer hull. The robot is inflated with water and then rapidly deflates by shooting the water out through its base to power its propulsion and acceleration, despite starting from a non-streamlined shape. It works like blowing up a balloon and then releasing it to fly around the room. However, the skeleton inside keeps the balloon tight and the final shape streamlined, while fins on the back keep it going straight. The robot is capable of accelerating up to ten body lengths in less than a second. Making the robot bigger would improve its fast-starting performance. This could have an impact in engineering fields where drag is critical, such as airplane wing design. Source:

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