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Powder Handling Device for Analytical Instruments

Powder is handled as a fluid via equipment that requires few or no moving parts. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California A new technology provides for automated sample handling and movement of coarse-grained powder or other solid materials to enable analysis by a robotic or totally automated computer system. Currently, many analytical instruments require a powder sample to control the shape and/or volume of the specimen, to increase the surface area of the specimen, to increase the statistical representation of a specimen when samples are not homogeneous with regard to the characterized property, and/or to increase the statistical representation of the specimen spatial orientation when the properties being characterized are not equivalent in different viewing directions. Grinding the material down to an ideal grain size is sometimes impossible, and conditioning the sample for analysis is often time-consuming and labor-intensive. In the new approach, the powder is handled as a fluid, using mechanical vibrations in conjunction with a driving force (gravity or gas flow), and requiring few or no moving parts.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Briefs

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Improved Light Injection and Detection Methods for fNIRS Headgear for Use in Avionics and Astronautics

The benefits of the innovation allow the technique to move out of the controlled laboratory and into clinical and operational environments. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio Measuring hemoglobin concentration changes in the brain with functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a promising technique for monitoring cognitive state to optimize human performance during both aviation and space operations. The detection and prevention of performance decrement is also relevant to safety-critical operational tasks such as monitoring for air traffic control, performing surgery, and driving. Advances in optical instrumentation for fNIRS have been conceptualized and integrated into several new headgear prototypes designed for use by operators in the real world.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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A High-Cross-Polarization-Isolation, Multi-Frequency Antenna for Cloud and Precipitation Research

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland The Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) has an immediate need for a matched-beam Ku-band/Ka-band antenna system that can be used as a component of a ground validation radar. Retrieval techniques based on both polarization and differential absorption at the two wavelengths can be used to provide additional insight into precipitation type and particle size distribution over a 10- to 40-km spatial domain. These measurements can then be compared with long range radar, such as the WSR-88D, and in situ sensors to provide a comprehensive dataset for evaluating and improving satellite-based precipitation estimates.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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External Magnetic Field Reduction Technique for Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator

New generators can be configured for very low magnetic emissions so as not to interfere with sensitive instrumentation. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio Linear alternators coupled to Stirling power converters are promising candidates for high-efficiency heat-to-electricity power conversion in space. Presently, the external magnetic field emissions of such converters may exceed the allowed emission limits for use with certain sensitive scientific instrumentation. This invention, based on concepts of magnetic moment balancing, can reduce such field emissions sufficiently to enable use of the space power Stirling converters in sensitive instrumentation missions.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs

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Advanced P-Band Spaceborne Radar System

A new imaging approach can overcome the fundamental limitations of conventional radar systems. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Low-cost, flexible spaceborne radar architectures are needed to provide critical data for Earth and science applications. An instrument concept was developed for an advanced spaceborne radar system that can measure terrestrial biomass (woody mass per unit area), ecosystem structure (height and density), and extent on a global scale. The PNTB band polarimetric radar architecture employs advanced techniques to increase the science value of the measurements while achieving it at a lower cost. The spaceborne radar concept leverages the existing airborne L-band digital beamforming synthetic aperture radar (DBSAR) and the new P-band digital beamforming (DBF) polarimetric and interferometric EcoSAR (ESTO IIP) architectures that employ DBF and reconfigurable hardware to provide advanced radar capabilities not possible with conventional radar instruments.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Global Fire Detection Constellation

Small satellites could monitor and process images to track fires from space. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Wildfires that start in backcountry areas sometimes burn for hours before being detected and reported. Satellites offer a vantage point from which infrared sensors can detect fires. Individual satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) offer infrequent overpasses, making the delay from ignition to detection unacceptably long. Geostationary satellites offer a platform from which to maintain a round-the-clock vigil, but lack geographic precision, and cannot detect a rather small fire within a large pixel definitively above noise.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Compact Solid-State Entangled Photon Source

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio In the fields of quantum information, quantum optics, quantum cryptography, and quantum communications, there is a need to generate entangled photon pairs. The entangled photon pairs are described by an inseparable wave equation such that if a measurement is performed on one photon, its twin’s photon state is completely determined. The problem up to now is that these sources of entangled photons require large, expensive, and power-intensive Ar-ion lasers to generate light in the UV to pump a nonlinear crystal to produce spontaneous parametric down conversion (SPDC). The SPDC process generates a pair of photons (the signal and the idler) whose momentum and energy sum up to equal the initial pump photon.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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