Articles

Temperature Sensors Cement the Integrity of Bridges

Thermal profilers, developed with NASA, ensure structural integrity of cement as it cures.

The Obama administration wanted to foster partnerships with small- to medium-sized manufacturers through its Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative, wherein Federal agencies around the country are asked to mentor local businesses. One of the communities selected was the Cleveland-Youngstown region of Ohio, resulting in a call to Glenn Research Center. The Adopt a City program was launched, in which eight companies were identified to receive 40 hours each of assistance from experts at Glenn.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Sensors, Collaboration and partnering, Cooperative programs
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Choosing Stepper- or Servo-Driven Actuators to Replace Air Cylinders

Pneumatic (air) cylinders are widely used in industrial automation due to their low per-axis cost and high-speed/force capabilities. They have a long history of being popular workhorses in the automation industry. However, there are many reasons to use electric actuators in place of air cylinders: reduced machine downtime, reduced energy consumption, increased precision, and increased speed. In addition, electric actuators can be powered by servo or stepper motors, in conjunction with a control device, to provide linear motion.

Advantages of Electric Linear Actuators

Reduced downtime. Electric linear actuators (whether screw- or belt-driven) are very low-maintenance. Regreasing may be the only regular maintenance necessary, and many screw-driven models are lubricated for the life of the actuator.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Motion Control, Sensors and actuators, Electric motors, Durability
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Vote for Tech Briefs 22nd Annual Readers' Choice Awards

Each December, we ask our readers to cast their vote for the annual NASA Tech Briefs’ Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Awards. Each month, our editors choose a Product of the Month that has exceptional technical merit and practical value for our design engineering readers.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Design processes, Product development
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High-Resolution Surface Measurement

Inspectors who are assessing the severity of defects and the dimensions of small features on precision machined surfaces are limited by the capabilities of existing measurement techniques. A new type of instrument has been developed that enables direct, non-contact inspection of precision surfaces in shop floor environments. By combining the resolution of optical techniques with the portability of a handheld gauge, the new technology gives inspectors an important tool for finding and quantifying critical features on machined components.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Test & Measurement, Measurements, Fiber optics, Tools and equipment, Inspections
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Optical Fiber Sensors for Infrastructure Monitoring

Virtually every type of public infrastructure — including bridges, pipelines, tunnels, foundations, roadways, dams, etc. — is subject to factors that can degrade it or lead to malfunctions. These structural problems can be the result of deterioration, improper construction methods, seismic activity, or nearby construction work. Although electrical strain gauges have long been used for monitoring structural changes, they sometimes lack the durability and integrity necessary to provide accurate, actionable information over extended periods.

Posted in: Articles, Optics, Test & Measurement, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Inspections, Roads and highways
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ECG Small Signal General and Analysis

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is the most common way to identify various ailments, especially when the ailment is related to the heart. To perform an ECG, the medical personnel places the leads on the patient’s skin. The leads measure the heart’s electrical activity of one heartbeat cycle and record it as a continuous line tracing on paper to produce a graph. The ECG signal may indicate:

Posted in: Articles, Diagnostics, Medical, Monitoring, Test & Measurement, Oscilloscopes, Cardiovascular system, Medical equipment and supplies
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A 40-Year Legacy and Excitement for the Future

As I approach retirement after 40 years as CEO of National Instruments (NI), I am reminded of the great progress and innovations the test and measurement industry has witnessed over that time. We have gone from an industry driven by vacuum tube technology in the era of General Radio, to a time where the transistor ruled with Hewlett-Packard, to today where software truly is the instrument — a transition that NI helped shepherd.

Posted in: Articles, Software, Test & Measurement, Measurements, People and personalities, Technical review
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Nasa Processing Technologies Enable Advanced Computing Applications

Embedded processing technologies developed at NASA field centers are enabling the use of next-generation computer-controlled instruments and spacecraft, including SpaceCubes, integrated photonics modems, and new ways to manufacture computer components.

SpaceCube Processors

Next-generation spacecraft instruments are capable of producing data at rates of 108 to 1011 bits per second, and both their instrument designs and mission operations concepts are severely constrained by data rate and volume. SpaceCube™ enables these next-generation missions.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Photonics, Avionics, Computer software and hardware, Data exchange, Spacecraft
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Precision Coffeemaker Adapts Brews to Beans and Taste

NASA’s embedded communications technology and PID controllers play key roles in coffee brewing system.

Technology often takes circuitous paths. A magnetron developed for precision bombing during World War II led to the microwave oven, and a battery-powered drill created for collecting samples of Moon rock gave birth to the Dustbuster. Likewise, one student’s NASA experience with autonomous robotic vehicles has informed the creation of one of the world’s most sophisticated coffee machines.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Communications, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Design processes, Human machine interface (HMI), Robotics
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Diamond Meta-Surfaces Enable New Laser Applications

Over the last 15 years, breakthroughs in the manufacture and processing of diamond grown by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) have established diamond as an excellent substrate material for high-power and high-energy optics. Diamond is a natural choice for these highly demanding applications due to a combination of desirable properties including: extremely broad transmission spectrum, low absorption, chemical inertness, mechanical strength, and the highest room temperature thermal conductivity of any material. These properties allow diamond to perform in environments and applications where other materials are simply not viable options.

Posted in: Articles, Lasers & Laser Systems, Optics, Photonics, Lasers, Ceramics, Conductivity, Durability
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