Articles

NASA Looks to Make Tractor Beams a Reality

Tractor beams — the ability to trap and move objects using laser light — are not just “Star Trek” science fiction, and are not beyond current technology. A team of NASA scientists has won funding to study the concept of remotely capturing planetary or atmospheric particles, and delivering them to a robotic rover or orbiting spacecraft for analysis. NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) has awarded Principal Investigator Paul Stysley and team members Demetrios Poulios and Barry Coyle at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland funding to study three experimental methods for capturing particles and transporting them via laser light to an instrument. Once delivered, an instrument would then characterize their composition. The team has identified three different approaches for transporting particles, as well as single molecules, viruses, ribonucleic acid, and fully functioning cells, using the power of light. The team will study the state of the technology to determine which of the three techniques would apply best to sample collection. One technique is the optical vortex or "optical tweezers" method, and involves the use of two counter-propagating beams of light. Another technique employs optical solenoid beams — those whose intensity peaks spiral around the axis of propagation. The third technique exists only on paper and involves the use of a Bessel beam. Click here to watch a video of how a hypothetical future mission might employ tractor beam technology.

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Industry Update: Analysis & Simulation Software

While industry continues to weather a slowly improving economy, there is optimism among leading vendors in the analysis and simulation software market. In our annual poll of executives in this area, we found that while there is still a long way to go, growth is occurring, and the products are evolving. Other positive trends are strides in high-performance computing, and the increasing use of simulation and analysis at all levels of the development process. One of the advantages resulting from a slow economy is the increased scrutiny placed on reducing expenses and improving efficiency. This has been the case during the past few years in the simulation and analysis software arena. “The simulation market has continued to grow strongly over the years since 2008 as companies have increasingly moved to simulation to help them reduce the time and costs of expensive physical prototyping,” said Dale Berry, Director of Technical Marketing for Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA.

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Grand Prize Winner

Alpha-Screen (αScreen) Fast and Cheap Bacteria Detection Monika Weber, Christopher Yerino, Hazael Montanaro, Kane Siu Lung Lo, and Mark Reed, Yale University, New Haven, CT Every year, food-borne bacteria cause thousands of infections in humans and animals. Outbreaks of E.Coli and Salmonella commonly occur in meat, vegetables, and processed food products. The most recent and deadliest recorded E.Coli outbreak caused 39 deaths and over 3,500 reported cases of poisoning in May and June of this year in Germany. An effective method for disease detection and prevention is still missing, mostly due to long incubation times and a high operation cost associated with conventional methods.

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John C. Stennis Space Center

In the 1960s, NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, all but hidden away in the piney woods of south Mississippi, built a reputation of excellence in testing the massive first and second stages of the Saturn rocket for the nation’s Apollo Program.

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3D Imaging Technology Changing the Way We Look at Things

Everywhere we look we are bombarded with 3D. It’s in movies, in-home entertainment, digital camcorders, gaming systems, laptops, and even in our labs. What is it about 3D that is so fascinating and what are some of the technology drivers that are determining its future?

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Creating 3D Terrain Maps from 2D Data

Disaster relief workers, border patrol officers, wildfire fighters, and many others need up-to-date information about what they will see when they enter an area, not just sketchy topographic maps that may be years out of date. For them, things change in a hurry, and high-resolution details may be critical to their mission success.

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Addressing Trends in Analysis & Simulation Software

In our annual poll of executives in the Analysis & Simulation Software market, we asked our experts about growth in a struggling economy, how software is evolving, strides in high-performance computing, and the increasing use of simulation and analysis at all levels of the development process. Here’s more of what they had to say:

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