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Low-Temperature-Compatible Electronics for a Miniature Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer

The electronics have been demonstrated to function down to 77 K. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Missions to Titan are severely limited in available mass and power because spacecraft have to travel over a billion miles to get there, consuming large masses of propellants. Thus low-mass, low-power instruments are a high priority need for Titan missions. A miniature, liquid-phase, high-resolution, pulsed proton-NMR (1H-NMR) spectrometer was developed with low mass (1.5 kg), requiring low power, that can be operated cryogenically on the surface of Titan. This work focuses on new pulsed electronic circuits, optimized for a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer for analysis of hydrocarbon liquids on Titan.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Ionospheric Delay Compensation Using a Scale Factor Based on an Altitude of a Receiver

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas GPS receivers must compensate for the delay a GPS signal experiences as it passes through the ionosphere in order to accurately determine the position of the receiver. Receivers limited to terrestrial operation may utilize the Klobuchar parameters transmitted by the GPS satellites to model the ionosphere and remove much of this delay. However, as a GPS receiver passes through the ionosphere, such as in a spacecraft or low-Earth orbit space station, the Klobuchar model no longer adequately approximates the correction to be applied. Other models exist, particularly the IRI 2007 model created by NASA et al., but these are too computationally complex to be performed in real time by common hardware available for space implementations. Moreover, although the IRI model provides extensive insight into the historical characteristics of the ionosphere, it is purely predictive for times beyond the publication date of the model. Still other models exist that can be used during post-processing but are also not available in real time.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Microelectronic Repair Techniques for Wafer-Level Integration

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Wafer-level integration was employed to mount the microshutter array for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the detector-read-out hybrid for TIRS (Thermal Infrared Sensor). In the case of the JWST substrate, two conductors (polysilicon and aluminum) separated by a silicon oxide insulating layer were fabricated on a roughly 85-mm-square silicon wafer. The size of the substrate, the density and length of the conductive traces, and the requirement of zero shorts and zero opens on the finished device necessitated nearly impossible cleanroom requirements. Techniques were developed to repair the inevitable shorts and opens created during the wafer fabrication process. The wafers were repaired to zero shorts and zero opens without degradation of device performance.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Multi-Gigabit-Rate Radiation Hard Bus

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland A concept was developed for a multi-gigabit-rate, radiation-hardened (RH) bus that would support open-system architecture and provide a cost-effective, high-speed interconnect. This concept is based on Advanced Science and Novel Technology Company’s SerDes system, which supports a variety of interfaces, and operates at frequencies from DC to more than 15 GHz. The design of the improved SerDes is based on the company’s proprietary library of RH cells and functional blocks using annular FETs (field-effect transistors) that are available in commercial CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) technologies. Bus architecture and preliminary SerDes circuit design have been accomplished during this phase. At the time of this reporting, the complete chip was to be designed and fabricated in the next phase.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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A New Paradigm for Mid-Lifecycle Design Changes

For decades, replacing key components during the mid-lifecycle design refresh was seen as simply too costly and burdensome. Changes had to wait until the next generation. Today, technology changes too fast to wait to add new capabilities. Fortunately, there are other options. With the right partners and suppliers involved, a mid-lifecycle component change can provide cost savings and greater performance capabilities. This white paper explores when and why a mid-lifecycle component change makes sense.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, White Papers

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3D Printer That Could Build a Home in 24 Hours Wins Global Design Competition

New York, NY – Contour Crafting, a computerized construction method that rapidly 3D prints large-scale structures directly from architectural CAD models, has been awarded the grand prize of $20,000 in the 2014 "Create the Future" Design Contest. Contour Crafting automates the construction of whole structures and radically reduces the time and cost of construction. The large-scale 3D printing technology is revolutionary to the construction industry and could lead to affordable building of high-quality, low-income housing; the rapid construction of emergency shelters; and on-demand housing in response to disasters. NASA is looking at the technology for building moon and Mars bases. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at University of Southern California, who invented Contour Crafting, views this invention as a proven concept. “Bringing 3D printing to construction is bringing a concept to a proven application. For many years, building has been done in layers – concrete foundation blocks, brick laying, structural framing, etc.” “I am very happy to receive this award and find it to be very timely as I am in the process of fund raising and I think this recognition will help me greatly in furthering the project,” said Khoshnevis. Contour Crafting was among the 1,074 new product ideas submitted in the 12th annual design contest, which was established in 2002 to recognize and reward engineering innovations that benefit humanity, the environment, and the economy. This year’s design contest was co-sponsored by COMSOL (www.comsol.com) and Mouser Electronics (www.mouser.com). Analog Devices and Intel were supporting sponsors. In addition to the grand prize of $20,000, first-place winners (of Hewlett-Packard workstations) were named in seven categories: *Aerospace & Defense: The Polariton Interferometer - a Novel Inertial Navigation System Frederick Moxley A stealth navigation system that provides precise course-plotting while operating independently from GPS. *Automotive/Transportation: Continuously Variable Displacement Engine Steve Arnold A continuously variable stroke engine that operates at 30% better fuel efficiency than conventional thick stroke engine designs. *Consumer Products: NanoFab Lab...in a Box! Jonathan Moritz (Team Leader) An educational kit that brings nanomanufacturing out of the cleanroom and into the classroom. *Electronics: A Paradigm Shift for SMT Electronics Jim Hester (Team Leader) Micro-coil springs that provide flexible electrical interconnections for integrated circuit packages, preventing connection breaks due to heat and vibration. *Machinery/Automation/Robotics  – sponsored by Maplesoft: Automatic Eye Finder & Tracking System Rikki Razdan (Team Leader) Real-time point-of-gaze eye tracking system that allows users to control computer input through "Look and Click" applications.  *Medical: HemeChip for Early Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease Yunus Alapan (Team Leader) A biochip that can rapidly, easily, and conclusively identify the hemoglobin type in blood to diagnose Sickle Cell Disease in newborns. *Sustainable Technologies: Ecovent Systems - Making Every Room the Right Temperature Dipul Patel (Team Leader) A system of wireless vents and sensors that makes any forced air heating and cooling system smarter by directing conditioned air where it’s needed most. Finalists were selected by senior editors at Tech Briefs Media Group and judged by an independent panel of design engineers. Visitors to the contest Web site could vote on entries, with the 10 most popular designs awarded a Sphero mobile game system by Orbotix. For more information, visit www.createthefuturecontest.com.          

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Green Design & Manufacturing, Software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Medical, Diagnostics, Machinery & Automation, Semiconductors & ICs, Nanotechnology, News, Automotive

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Researchers Control Surface Tension of Liquid Metals

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique for controlling the surface tension of liquid metals by applying very low voltages, opening the door to a new generation of reconfigurable electronic circuits, antennas and other technologies. The technique hinges on the fact that the oxide “skin” of the metal – which can be deposited or removed – acts as a surfactant, lowering the surface tension between the metal and the surrounding fluid.The researchers used a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium. In base, the bare alloy has a remarkably high surface tension of about 500 millinewtons (mN)/meter, which causes the metal to bead up into a spherical blob. “But we discovered that applying a small, positive charge – less than 1 volt – causes an electrochemical reaction that creates an oxide layer on the surface of the metal, dramatically lowering the surface tension from 500 mN/meter to around 2 mN/meter,” says Dr. Michael Dickey, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work. “This change allows the liquid metal to spread out like a pancake, due to gravity.”The researchers also showed that the change in surface tension is reversible. If researchers flip the polarity of the charge from positive to negative, the oxide is eliminated and high surface tension is restored.  The surface tension can be tuned between these two extremes by varying the voltage in small steps.SourceAlso: Learn about Gradient Metal Alloys Fabricated Using Additive Manufacturing.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronics, Power Management, Materials, Metals, RF & Microwave Electronics, Antennas, News

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