Electrical/Electronics

Students Design Robotic Gardeners for Deep Space

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder are designing robots to work in a deep-space habitat, tending gardens and growing food for astronaut explorers.The team's entry in the eXploration HABitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is called "Plants Anywhere: Plants Growing in Free Habitat Spaces." Instead of an area set aside just for vegetation, the approach calls for plants to be distributed in any available space in a deep-space habitat.In their new system, a Remotely Operated Gardening Rover, or ROGR, travels around the habitat tending to a fleet of SmartPots, or SPOTS, which would be distributed throughout the deep-space habitat's living space.The SPOTS facilitate plants growing in a small, custom- designed hydroponic growth chamber with computerized systems to monitor the vegetation's progress. Each has its own sensor run by an embedded computer."We envision dozens of SPOTS on a space habitat," said Dane Larsen who is working on a master's degree on computer science. "Telemetry in each SPOT provides data on plant condition to a computer display."The robots and plants are networked together, and the SPOTS have the ability to monitor their fruits' or vegetables' soil humidity and issue watering requests.As each SPOT monitors and supports its plants, it can determine when ROGR needs to perform plant maintenance tasks. ROGR, a robot on wheels, has a forklift to move SPOTS, a mechanical arm for manipulating the plants, and a fluid delivery system that can provide fresh water or water with nutrients.SourceAlso: Learn about a Dexterous Humanoid Robot.

Posted in: News, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Sensors, Monitoring

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Scientists Demonstrate Data Teleportation for Secure Communications

Teleportation, a long-standing staple in the world of science fiction, has become a reality for scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in terms of battlefield data and image processing. Army Research Laboratory quantum information principal investigator Ronald Meyers and team member Keith Deacon recently demonstrated information teleportation using entangled photons.

Posted in: News, Computers, Photonics

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High/Low-Temperature Contactless RF Probes for Characterizing Microwave Integrated Circuits and Devices

These probing systems can be used in wireless sensors in applications such as oil wells, aircraft engines, and robotic landers. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio Low-temperature, contactless radio-frequency (RF) probing systems are necessary for characterizing sensors operating at liquid nitrogen or helium temperatures, and based on superconducting materials. The design and operation of the contactless RF probing systems relies on strong electromagnetic coupling that takes place between two different microwave transmission lines oriented in close proximity, but not in contact with each other, to ensure high thermal isolation. The goal of this work is to develop a reliable, easily constructed, less expensive, contactless RF probe for characterizing microwave integrated circuits (MICs) and devices embedded in sensors fabricated on conformal or non-planar substrates, at elevated or cryogenic temperatures.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs, TSP

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Multi-Tone, High-Frequency Synthesizer for CubeSat-Borne Beacon Transmitter for Radio Wave Atmospheric Propagation Studies

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio This report presents the design, construction, and test results of a novel multitone, multi-band, high-frequency synthesizer for application in a space-borne (including a CubeSat) beacon transmitter for radio wave atmospheric propagation studies. The beacon transmitter synthesizer design can be tailored to operate in those frequency bands of interest for future space-to-Earth data links, e.g., Q-band (37 to 42 GHz) and E-band (71 to 76 GHz).

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs, TSP

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Dynamic Response Determination of an Electronic Printed Circuit Board

Understanding the mechanical reliability of a PCB in an electronic system is an important part of assessing the reliability of the entire system. John Deere Electronic Solutions, Fargo, North Dakota; and John Deere India Pvt Ltd., Maharashtra, India Most of today’s automotive electronic systems are composed of two major mechanical elements: an equipment chassis or enclosure, and a printed circuit board (PCB) assembly. The PCB is composed of laminated copper and FR-4 glass epoxy. These systems often operate in severe vibration environments for extended periods without failing. The vibrations transmitted throughout the PCB induce strains in the connectors, components, and most importantly, the solder joints attaching the components to it.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs

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Wii Nunchuk Controller for ATHLETE Operations

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The Arduino platform was used to develop an interface between two otherwise incompatible commercial devices in order to drive the ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) rover over long distances. The Portable Operations Terminal consists of three distinct parts: a robot-mounted ruggedized laptop computer containing all of the “ground” support software needed to operate ATHLETE, a handheld computer capable of performing simple problem diagnosis and troubleshooting, and a handheld joystick based on the Wii Nunchuk used to drive ATHLETE with one hand. The physical modifications included an Arduino electronic prototyping board with custom firmware, and various support cables, lanyards, and enclosures to make the device survive the desert environment of the field test.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Briefs, TSP

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'Sensing Skin' Detects Damage in Concrete Structures

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Eastern Finland have developed new “sensing skin” technology designed to serve as an early warning system for concrete structures, allowing authorities to respond quickly to damage in everything from nuclear facilities to bridges.“The sensing skin could be used for a wide range of structures, but the impetus for the work was to help ensure the integrity of critical infrastructure such as nuclear waste storage facilities,” says Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.The skin is an electrically conductive coat of paint that can be applied to new or existing structures. The paint can incorporate any number of conductive materials, such as copper, making it relatively inexpensive.Electrodes are applied around the perimeter of a structure. The sensing skin is then painted onto the structure, over the electrodes. A computer program then runs a small current between two of the electrodes at a time, cycling through a number of possible electrode combinations.Every time the current runs between two electrodes, a computer monitors and records the electrical potential at all of the electrodes on the structure. This data is then used to calculate the sensing skin’s spatially distributed electrical conductivity. If the skin’s conductivity decreases, that means the structure has cracked or been otherwise damaged.The researchers have developed a suite of algorithms that allow them to both register damage and to determine where the damage has taken place.SourceAlso: Learn about Designing Composite Repairs and Retrofits for Infrastructure.

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Electronics, Detectors, Sensors

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