News

NASA System to Analyze Particles in Earth's Atmosphere

The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), a new instrument that will measure the character and worldwide distribution of the tiny particles that make up haze, dust, air pollutants, and smoke, will do more than gather data once it’s deployed on the International Space Station this year.“CATS is a groundbreaking science and technology pathfinder,” said Colleen Hartman, deputy center director for science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Not only will it make critical measurements that will tell us more about the global impact of pollution, smoke and dust on Earth’s climate, it will demonstrate promising new technology and prove that inexpensive missions can make critical measurements needed by the modelers to predict future climate changes.”Developed by a Goddard team led by scientist Matt McGill, the refrigerator-size CATS will demonstrate for the first time three-wavelength laser technology for measuring volcanic particles and other aerosols from space. It is intended to operate for at least six months and up to three years aboard the Japanese Experiment Module-Exposed Facility, augmenting measurements gathered by NASA’s CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations) mission.The big difference between the two, however, is that CALIPSO uses two wavelengths — the 1,064- and 532-nanometer wavelengths — to study the same phenomena.SourceAlso: Learn about Multi-Parameter Aerosol Scattering Sensor.

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Metallic Alloy Gets Tougher at Cryogenic Temperatures

A new concept in metallic alloy design — called "high‐entropy alloys" — has yielded a multiple-element material that tests out as one of the toughest on record. Unlike most materials, the strength and ductility of the alloy actually improves at cryogenic temperatures.“We examined CrMnFeCoNi, a high‐entropy alloy that contains five major elements rather than one dominant one,” says Robert Ritchie, a materials scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division. “Our tests showed that despite containing multiple elements with different crystal structures, this alloy crystallizes as a single phase, face‐centered cubic solid with exceptional damage tolerance, tensile strength above one gigapascal, and fracture toughness values that are off the charts, exceeding that of virtually all other metallic alloys.” Tensile strengths and fracture toughness values were measured for CrMnFeCoNi from room temperature down to 77 Kelvin, the temperature of liquid nitrogen. The values recorded were among the highest reported for any material. That these values increased along with ductility at cryogenic temperatures is a huge departure from the vast majority of metallic alloys, which lose ductility and become more brittle at lower temperatures. The single-phase, high-entropy alloys would be ideal for cryogenic applications, such as storage tanks for liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, and oxygen.SourceAlso: Learn about Ti-6Al-4V Alloy Components for Spacecraft Applications.

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Are you excited about smartphone virtual reality options?

Virtual reality will reach mobile devices, thanks to two commercially available headsets: the Samsung Gear VR and LG VRTX One. Both use a smartphone to deliver 360-degree gaming and videos. With the immersive Samsung and LG devices, users must place their phones into the front of the headset and over their eyes. They can then move their head to see different parts of the artificial environment. The efforts could potentially introduce virtual reality to a mass audience. What do you think? Are you excited about smartphone virtual reality options?

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Device Harvests Power from Natural Temperature Fluctuations

University of Washington researchers have created a power harvester that uses natural fluctuations in temperature and pressure as its power source. The device harvests energy in any location where these temperature changes naturally occur, powering sensors that can check for water leaks or structural deficiencies in hard-to-reach places and alerting users by sending out a wireless signal.“Pressure changes and temperature fluctuations happen around us all the time in the environment, which could provide another source of energy for certain applications,” said Shwetak Patel, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering.A metal bellows about the size of a cantaloupe is filled with a temperature-sensitive gas. When the gas heats and cools in response to the outside air temperature, it expands and contracts, causing the bellows to do the same. Small, cantilever motion harvesters are placed on the bellows and convert the kinetic energy into electrical energy. The process powers sensors that also are placed on the bellows, and data collected by the sensors is sent wirelessly to a receiver.The researchers say this technology would be useful in places where sun and radio waves can’t always penetrate, such as inside walls or bridges and below ground where there might be at least small temperature fluctuations.SourceAlso: Learn about Bi-Axial Vibration Energy Harvesting.

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Sun-Powered Desalination Provides Potable Water

Around the world, there is more salty groundwater than fresh, drinkable groundwater. For example, 60 percent of India is underlain by salty water — and much of that area is not served by an electric grid that could run conventional reverse-osmosis desalination plants.Now an analysis by MIT researchers shows that a different desalination technology called electrodialysis, powered by solar panels, could provide enough clean, palatable drinking water to supply the needs of a typical village. By pairing village-scale electrodialysis systems — a bit smaller than the industrial-scale units typically produced today — with a simple set of solar panels and a battery system to store the produced energy, an economically viable and culturally acceptable system could double the area of India in which groundwater — which is inherently safer, in terms of pathogen loads, than surface water — could provide acceptable drinking water.Electrodialysis works by passing a stream of water between two electrodes with opposite charges. Because the salt dissolved in water consists of positive and negative ions, the electrodes pull the ions out of the water, leaving fresher water at the center of the flow. A series of membranes separate the freshwater stream from increasingly salty ones.The researcher plan to put together a working prototype for field evaluations in India in January.SourceAlso: Learn about a System For Measuring Osmotic Transport Properties of a Membrane.

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Army Selected for Joint Strike Fighter Software Assessment

The F-35 Joint Program Office has selected the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center to perform independent software safety analyses of the next-generation strike aircraft commonly called the Joint Strike Fighter. The single-engine, single-seat F-35 will be manufactured in three versions: a conventional-takeoff-and-landing variant for the Air Force, an aircraft-carrier variant for the Navy, and a short- takeoff/vertical landing variant for the Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.

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Researchers Work to Create Smarter Underwater Drones

An underwater drone armed with the best technology on the planet descended repeatedly to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, trying to find the remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and time after time, it turned up nothing. If Nina Mahmoudian has her way, however, the next generation of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will have a much better chance of getting it right.

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