News

Researchers Create New Test Station for Missile Warning System

The AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) helps protect Army aircraft from attack by shoulder-launched missiles and other threats. To keep this defensive system operating at maximum effectiveness, the Army periodically updates the software on the more than 1,000 AN/AAR-57 units in use around the world.

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Studies Look at Long-Term Aging of Electronics in Nuclear Weapons

Sandia National Laboratories is studying how environments, including radiation that originates from a nuclear weapon itself, could affect the performance of electronics in the W76-1 warhead as they age. Sandia, which is responsible for most non-nuclear components in U.S. nuclear weapons, is helping replace W76 warheads in the nation’s stockpile with a refurbished version under the W76-1 Life Extension Program (LEP). The ballistic missile warhead is carried on the Trident II D5 missile aboard Ohio-class Navy submarines.

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Researchers Craft Vivid Colors on Ultra-Thin Coatings

A new coating exploits interference effects in thin films, creating a range of vivid colors. The new technique coats a metallic object with an extremely thin layer of semiconductor, just a few nanometers thick. Although the semiconductor is a steely gray color, the object ends up shining in vibrant hues.The ultrathin coatings could be applied to essentially any rough or flexible material, from wearable fabrics to stretchable electronics.A machine called an electron-beam evaporator applies the gold and germanium coating. The paper sample is sealed inside the machine's chamber, and a pump sucks out the air until the pressure drops to a staggering 10-6 Torr (a billionth of an atmosphere). A stream of electrons strikes a piece of gold held in a carbon crucible, and the metal vaporizes, traveling upward through the vacuum until it hits the paper. Repeating the process, a second layer is added. A little more or a little less germanium makes the difference between indigo and crimson."This is a way of coloring something with a very thin layer of material, said Mikhail Kats, postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, "so in principle, if it's a metal to begin with, you can just use 10 nanometers to color it, and if it's not, you can deposit a metal that's 30 nm thick and then another 10 nm. That's a lot thinner than a conventional paint coating that might be between a micron and 10 microns thick.” SourceAlso: Read about other Materials and Coatings.

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NASA Tests Gecko Grippers in Microgravity

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working on adhesive gripping tools that could grapple objects such as orbital debris or defunct satellites that would otherwise be hard to handle.The gecko gripper project was selected for a test flight through the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. As a test, researchers used the grippers in brief periods of weightlessness aboard NASA's C-9B parabolic flight aircraft in August.The gripping system developed by Parness and colleagues was inspired by geckos, lizards that cling to walls with ease. Geckos' feet have branching arrays of tiny hairs, the smallest of which are hundreds of times thinner than a human hair. This system of hairs can conform to a rough surface without a lot of force. Although researchers cannot make a perfect replica of the gecko foot, they have put "hair" structures on the adhesive pads of the grippers.The synthetic hairs, also called stalks, are wedge-shaped and have a slanted, mushroom-shaped cap. When the gripping pad lightly touches part of an object, only the very tips of the hairs make contact with that surface.SourceAlso: Learn about Microgravity Storage Vessels for Cohesive Regolith.

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Magnetic Levitating Gear Has No Touching Parts

Researchers are developing a new transmission mechanism, with no touching parts, based on magnetic forces that prevent friction and wear, and make lubrication unnecessary. It can be applied in space travel and exploration, but has also been adapted for use in other areas such as the railroad and aircraft industries.

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Robotic Walker Helps Patients Regain Natural Gait

Researchers from the National University of Singapore have invented a novel robotic walker that helps patients carry out physical therapy sessions to regain their leg movements and natural gait. The system also increases productivity of physiotherapists, and improves the quality of rehabilitation sessions. The walker can support a patient’s weight while providing the right amount of force at the pelvis to help the patient walk with a natural gait.

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Two-Stroke Engine Features Low Consumption and Fewer Emissions

Researchers have developed a new two-stroke engine notable for its low consumption and low level of pollutant emissions. The engine is the result of Powerful, a European project focusing on reduction in the engine’s weight and size using only two cylinders instead of the four used in the four-stroke engines currently on the market. Moreover, since it has fewer cylinders, the friction produced in the engine is reduced, increasing its mechanical output and, finally, its overall performance.

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