News

NASA Completes Heat Shield Test for Future Mars Vehicles

As NASA missions to Mars progress, spacecraft will require larger heat shields to protect against the extreme heat of entering a planet's atmosphere and decelerating at a safe altitude in the thin Martian atmosphere. NASA’s Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) is a mechanically deployable heat shield concept using carbon fabric: a flexible heat shield that expands to open like an umbrella.

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Mobile Eye-Test Device Could Lead to Prescription Virtual-Reality Screens

MIT’s Netra, a plastic, binocular-like headset attaches in the front to a smartphone. Users peer through the headset at the phone’s display. Patterns, such as separate red and green lines or circles, appear on the screen. The user turns a dial to align the patterns and pushes a button to lock them in place. After eight interactions, the app calculates the difference between what the user sees as “aligned” and the actual alignment of the patterns. This signals any refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The app then displays the refractive powers, axis of astigmatism, and pupillary distance required for eyeglasses prescriptions.

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Researchers Weld the Un-Weldable

Despite recent advances in materials design, alternative metals still pose a challenge to manufacturers in practice. Many are considered un-weldable by traditional means, in part because high heat and re-solidification weaken the metals. Engineers at The Ohio State University have developed a new welding technique that consumes 80 percent less energy than a common welding technique, yet creates a stronger bond.

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Engineers Put 'Spring' in Robots' Step

The ATRIAS robot model developed at Oregon State University uses a "spring-mass" walking approach. The natural-gait method gives human-sized bipedal robots the ability to blindly react to rough terrain, maintain balance, retain an efficiency of motion, and walk like humans.

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New Sensor Peers Inside Fingertip

Scientists from The Langevin Institute, Paris, France, have constructed a new fingerprint imaging system that peers inside the finger to take a picture — a more reliable and secure way of identifying individuals. The fingerprint sensor, based on full field optical coherence tomography (FF-OCT), uses an inexpensive fast camera.

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"Fused Reality" Combines Simulation and Flying to Train Pilots

There are two ways for pilots to gain proficiency in an airplane and evaluate its handling qualities: climb into the cockpit and take off, or practice in a ground-based simulator. Now, it is possible to combine the best of both through a new technology called Fused Reality that is being tested by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

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Researchers Urge Changes to Design of Commercial Aircraft Engines

Virginia Tech researchers are urging changes in how commercial aircraft engines are designed in the wake of a possible new threat to passenger aircraft safety: drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, being sucked into turbofan engines at high speeds. Such an impact would be devastating to the engine as its blades are ripped to shreds after “ingesting” the hard-shell center of a drone’s electronics housing.

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