Special Coverage

Self-Healing Wire Insulation
Thermomechanical Methodology for Stabilizing Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) Response
Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams
High Field Superconducting Magnets
Active Response Gravity Offload and Method
Strat-X
Sonar Inspection Robot System
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Real-Time Oil Reservoir Evaluation Using Nanotechnology

This innovation is a method and system for evaluating the status and response of a mineral-producing field (e.g., oil and/or gas) by monitoring selected chemical and physical properties in or adjacent to a well site headspace. Nanotechnology sensors and other sensors are provided for one or more underground (fluid) mineral-producing well sites to determine the presence/absence of each of two or more target molecules in the fluid; relative humidity, temperature, and/or fluid pressure adjacent to the well site; and flow direction and flow velocity for the fluid. The nanosensor measures an electrical parameter value and estimates a corresponding environmental parameter value, such as water content or hydrocarbon content. The system is small enough to be located down-hole in each mineral-producing horizon for the well site.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

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Stackable Form-Factor Peripheral Component Interconnect Device and Assembly

Applications include fault-tolerant computing systems, high-speed data acquisition, embedded servers, and intelligent transportation systems. The invention is a design for a peripheral component interconnect (PCI) local bus controller and target in a PC/104-Plus form-factor. The design uses a flash-based field programmable gate array (FPGA) to provide immediate functionality from power-on to avoid delay after power is applied. It can be reprogrammed from connectors directly on the board, and is able to both receive and drive the clock for system and local peripherals, allowing it to function as either a PCI bus host controller or PCI target device interface. Fully compliant with the PC/104-Plus specification, the design has associated schematics and Gerber files in a vendor-ready state. The design was developed to support ongoing research in fault-tolerant computing systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Vibration Damping Circuit Card Assembly

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a particle impact damper (NASA damper) that can be used in circuit card assemblies to reduce vibrations encountered during space vehicle launch. The damper, filled with high-density metallic beads, is attached to printed circuit boards (PCBs) and printed wiring assemblies (PWAs) to dissipate vibrations and improve component reliability and robustness. Testing has demonstrated an order-of-magnitude reduction in observed peak vibration response, and dramatic improvement in circuit component life span. The NASA technology provides simple and inexpensive vibration reduction for sensitive heritage or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics in applications where the vibration environment is either severe or exceeding its original design envelope. The technology can benefit heritage hardware in a wide range of applications as a retrofitted upgrade, or can be incorporated into the design of new circuit cards.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Probabilistic Surface Characterization for Safe Landing Hazard Detection and Avoidance (HDA)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a probabilistic algorithm for hazard detection and avoidance (HDA) that robustly handles sensor noise. Conventional surface characterization methods use fixed hazard thresholds to determine hazardous landing locations; these thresholds are set lower than lander tolerances to compensate for sensor noise, but this leads to excessive false alarms and significantly reduces the number of safe locations. JPL’s probabilistic method seamlessly combines the distance to nearest hazard and the local roughness, and incorporates the presence of navigation errors to determine the probability that a given location is a safe landing site. This innovative algorithm enables onboard hazard detection and avoidance to increase the probability of safe landing and allow landings in more scientifically interesting but challenging sites.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation

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Robot for Controlled Deposition of Multilayer Thin Film Structures

During deposition of thin film layers using shadow masking techniques, thin film layer structure morphology changes with respect to the position of the thin film layer and the shadow of the mask. Morphology changes in the thin film result in refractive index and density changes that affect the performance of the thin film layer in and around the shadow mask.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation

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Walk and Roll Robot

Applications include urban search and rescue, traversing harsh terrain for scientific exploration, and military reconnaissance and exploration. In smooth terrain, the most efficient motion to traverse the terrain is rolling. However, when a wheeled vehicle encounters obstacles, it must circumvent them if possible or choose an alternate path. Legged vehicles can traverse such obstacles by stepping over them, but are not energy efficient on smooth terrain. The Walk and Roll Robot combines walking and rolling capabilities for energy efficient motions. It utilizes a directed flux motor and epicyclical gear bearings to articulate the legs and wheels, which allows for a compact configuration and prevents gear backdrive. This compact design — where all of the components are contained within the body — allows the robot to be utilized for multiple applications, including those with harsh environments in which robots traditionally have difficulty with debris, moisture, or dust. Also, more efficient gaits utilizing walking and rolling have been developed using the Walk and Roll Robot.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation

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Human Grasp Assist Device with Exoskeleton

The Robo-Glove can be used in construction, hazardous material handling, manufacturing, repetitive motion work, and oil and gas exploration. Researchers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors (GM), have designed and developed Robo-Glove, a wearable human grasp assist device, to help reduce the grasping force needed by an individual to operate tools for an extended time or when performing tasks having repetitive mo tion. Robo-Glove has the potential to help workers, such as construction workers, hazardous material workers, or assembly line operators, whose job requires continuous grasping and ungrasping motion. The Robo-Glove also has potential applications in prosthetic devices, rehabilitation aids, and helping people with impaired or limited arm and hand muscle strength.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation

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