NASA Instrument Measures Methane

A NASA scientist, who has played a key role in developing and demonstrating a new technique for gathering carbon-dioxide (CO2) measurements, is applying the same general principles to develop a new laser instrument sensitive to another greenhouse gas, methane.A team, led by the NASA researcher Haris Riris, demonstrated a prototype Methane Sounder. The next-generation instrument will be able to provide remotely collected, high-resolution, highly accurate, around-the-clock global methane measurements should it ultimately fly as a spaceborne instrument. Although carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas, lingers in the atmosphere longer, methane is in some respects more worrisome. It is more potent and effective at absorbing heat. Exacerbating concerns is the fact that large quantities of the gas reside beneath permanently frozen ground in the Arctic. As the permafrost melts, which scientists say currently is occurring, more of this gas is released into the atmosphere, creating a feedback mechanism, where emissions lead to more warming, which in turn accelerates the melting.Although some satellite instruments can detect and map Earth’s methane, Riris’ concept gives scientists something they don’t currently have — 24-hour coverage at all latitudes. In sharp contrast to many methane instruments, the Methane Sounder also employs its own light source — tunable laser transmitters. Although laser light cannot penetrate thick clouds, it can measure through thin clouds and particles and at night, which is impossible for passive systems that rely on reflected sunlight for their source of illumination.To gather methane data, the team’s instrument works much like the CO2 Sounder. The system bounces a laser light tuned to a specific wavelength band — in this case, 1.65 microns — off Earth’s surface. Like all atmospheric gases, methane will absorb the light as it travels back to the orbiting instrument. The more methane molecules along the path, the deeper the absorption lines as measured by the instrument’s detectors.SourceAlso: Learn about an Oxygen-Methane Thruster.

Posted in: News


Public Lighting System Runs on Solar and Wind Energy

A researcher at the Barcelona College of Industrial Engineering, in collaboration with the company Eolgreen, has developed the first autonomous industrialized public lighting system that works with solar and wind energy. This system, developed after four years of research, is designed for inter-urban roads, motorways, urban parks, and other public areas. It is unique in the world, and reduces the cost by 20% compared with conventional public lighting systems. The prototype is 10 meters high and is fitted with a solar panel, a wind turbine, and a battery. The turbine runs at a speed of 10 to 200 rpm and has a maximum output of 400 watts. Work is being done on a second prototype generator that runs at a lower speed (10 to 60 rpm) and has a lower output (100 W). An electronic control system manages the flow of energy among the solar panel, the wind turbine, the battery, and the light. Source:

Posted in: News, Batteries, Electronics & Computers, Energy, Renewable Energy, Solar Power, Wind Power, Lighting


Zinc Oxide Materials Power Tiny Energy Harvesting Devices

Many types of smart devices are readily available and convenient to use. The goal now is to make wearable electronics that are flexible, sustainable, and powered by ambient renewable energy. This last goal inspired researchers to explore how the attractive physical features of zinc oxide (ZnO) materials could be used to tap into abundant mechanical energy sources to power micro devices. They discovered that inserting aluminum nitride insulating layers into ZnO-based energy harvesting devices led to a significant improvement of the devices’ performance. The group’s findings are expected to provide an effective approach for realizing “nanogenerators” for self-powered electronic systems such as portable communication devices, healthcare monitoring devices, environmental monitoring devices, and implantable medical devices. Source:

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Energy, Energy Harvesting, Renewable Energy, Materials, Metals, Nanotechnology, Semiconductors & ICs


Glass as Electrode Makes Batteries More Efficient

Today’s batteries provide a reliable power supply for our smartphones, electric cars and laptops, but are unable to keep up with the growing demands placed on them. Researchers have discovered a material that may have the potential to double battery capacity: vanadate-borate glass. The glass is being used as a cathode material, which is made of vanadium oxide (V2O5) and lithium-borate (LiBO2) precursors, and was coated with reduced graphite oxide (RGO) to enhance the electrode properties of the material. The vanadate-borate glass powder was used for battery cathodes, which were placed in prototypes for coin cell batteries to undergo numerous charge/discharge cycles. In tests, the glass electrodes demonstrated a vast improvement in these batteries’ capacity and energy density. Source:

Posted in: News, Batteries, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Materials, Semiconductors & ICs


ORCA Prototype Ready to Observe Ocean

If selected for a NASA flight mission, the Ocean Radiometer for Carbon Assessment (ORCA) instrument will study microscopic phytoplankton, the tiny green plants that float in the upper layer of the ocean and make up the base of the marine food chain.Conceived in 2001 as the next technological step forward in observing ocean color, the ORCA-development team used funding from Goddard’s Internal Research and Development program and NASA’s Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) to develop a prototype. Completed in 2014, ORCA now is a contender as the primary instrument on an upcoming Earth science mission.The ORCA prototype has a scanning telescope designed to sweep across 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of ocean at a time. The technology collects light reflected from the sea surface that then passes through a series of mirrors, optical filters, gratings, and lenses. The components direct the light onto an array of detectors that cover the full range of wavelengths.Instead of observing a handful of discrete bands at specific wavelengths reflected off the ocean, ORCA measures a range of bands, from 350 nanometers to 900 nanometers at five-nanometer resolution. The sensor will see the entire rainbow, including the color gradations of green that fade into blue. In addition to the hyperspectral bands, the instrument has three short-wave infrared bands that measure specific wavelengths between 1200 and 2200 nanometers for atmospheric applications.The NASA researchers will use ORCA to obtain more accurate measurements of chlorophyll concentrations, the size of a phytoplankton bloom, and how much carbon it holds. Detecting chlorophyll in various wavelengths also will allow the team to distinguish between types of phytoplankton. Suspended sediments in coastal regions could also be detected by the instrument.SourceAlso: Learn about a Ultra-Low-Maintenance Portable Ocean Power Station.

Posted in: News, Imaging, Optics, Photonics, Sensors, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement


Nissan and NASA to Jointly Develop Autonomous Vehicles

Nissan Motor Co., through its North American-based organization, and NASA today announced the formation of a five-year R&D partnership to advance autonomous vehicle systems and prepare for commercial application of the technology. Researchers from Nissan's U.S. Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, CA, will focus on autonomous drive systems, human-machine interface solutions, network-enabled applications, and software analysis and verification, all involving sophisticated hardware and software used in road and space applications.

Posted in: News, Automotive


Microcapsule Method Captures Carbon

Researchers has developed a novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power-plant emissions. The team, led by scientists from Harvard University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, employed a microfluidic assembly technique to produce microcapsules that contain liquid sorbents, or absorbing materials, encased in highly permeable polymer shells. The capsules have significant performance advantages over the carbon-absorbing materials used in current capture and sequestration technology.The new technique employs an abundant and environmentally benign sorbent: sodium carbonate, which is kitchen-grade baking soda. The microencapsulated carbon sorbents (MECS) achieve an order-of-magnitude increase in CO2 absorption rates compared to sorbents currently used in carbon capture. The carbon sorbents are produced using a double-capillary device in which the flow rates of three fluids — a carbonate solution combined with a catalyst for enhanced CO2 absorption, a photo-curable silicone that forms the capsule shell, and an aqueous solution — can be independently controlled.The MECS-based approach could also be tailored to industrial processes like steel and cement production, which are significant greenhouse gas sources.SourceRead other Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Green Design & Manufacturing, Greenhouse Gases, Remediation Technologies, Materials


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