Articles

NASA’s Pursuit of Power

Advances in batteries and propulsion enable innovations in both terrestrial and deep-space power applications.

Advances in Capacitor Materials

Electrochemical capacitors, or supercapacitors, have gained intense interest as an alternative to traditional energy storage devices. Applications for supercapacitors range from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to backup power sources. While the power density of supercapacitors surpasses that of batteries, commercially available batteries have a significantly higher specific energy density.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Power Management, Propulsion, Batteries, Energy storage systems, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Nanomaterials, Spacecraft
Read More >>

Rice Crop Models Stabilize Global Markets and Enable Efficient Irrigation

NASA satellite data gives rice producers and buyers comprehensive crop projections.

When global food prices spiked dramatically in late 2007 and into 2008, with the costs of many basic dietary staples doubling or even tripling, protests and riots upset much of the developing world. Following the price spike, world leaders gathered to figure out how to foresee and avert such market instabilities in the future, and a major product of those meetings was the Group on Earth Observations’ Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative, carried out by a partnership of governments and international organizations in the G20 nations. The initiative relies primarily on satellite Earth-imaging data to improve projections of crop production and weather forecasting.

Posted in: Articles, Spinoff, Aerospace, Imaging and visualization, Sustainable development, Weather and climate, Satellites
Read More >>

Advantages of Servo Motor and Direct Drive Technology

For many years, stepper motors have been the most popular type of electric motor designed into instrumentation for a wide variety of reasons. Stepper motors have become increasingly commoditized, and can be sourced easily. In addition, the growing “maker movement” has simultaneously made them more popular and reduced their cost. Unlike servo motors, stepper motors don’t require tuning to optimize their performance. What’s more, scaling and motion commands are typically quick and simple to execute using stepper motors. Servo motors often require a bit more expertise in executing complicated (torque, velocity, or position) loop closures. Finally, micro-stepping allows most modern drive electronics to step or increment a stepper motor to a resolution of 50,800 steps per revolution or higher.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Optimization, Energy conservation, Electric drives, Electric motors
Read More >>

An Inside Look at Electromechanical Power-Off Braking Options

Making the right choice between spring set and permanent magnet brakes can impact safety, durability, maintenance, and performance.

Power-off brakes are designed to hold or stop motion in the absence of power. Adding an electrical current releases the brake, freeing the load for motion. Given the safety ramifications of keeping a system locked in place until it is powered up, motion control system designers tend to specify power-off brakes more often than power-on brakes. There are, however, two different failsafe brake technologies: one uses compression springs to hold its load in place, and the other uses permanent magnets. Each has specific strengths and weaknesses, and knowing the difference can impact safety, durability, cost, and performance.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Electronic brake controls, Springs, Magnetic materials
Read More >>

Smart Cameras Get Smarter

How Actionable Data Drives Today’s Imaging Technology

Cameras are the eyes of the modern world. The devices equip today’s cars and machines, and real-time imaging capabilities support law enforcement, businesses, and homeowners. Thus far, cameras have been just that: simple cameras, eyes without a brain. Their sole purpose has been, primarily, to output images. Nowadays, however, cameras are “smarter.” In this article, we will review how imaging technology’s ability to intelligently process data will support new insights and applications.

Posted in: Articles, Features, Cameras, Imaging, Photonics, Artificial intelligence, Data acquisition and handling, Imaging and visualization
Read More >>

Delivering Industrial Reliability in Scientific Lasers

Industrial-strength design and production methodologies improve the quality and productivity of scientific lasers.

Scientific laser users have long relied on state-of-the-art performance (e.g., higher peak power, shorter pulse duration, wider wavelength tuning) to achieve groundbreaking results. Unfortunately, this high performance has often been emphasized at the expense of ease-of-use and reliability. Recently, however, this paradigm has dramatically changed, and some of the latest scientific lasers — including complex ultrafast amplifiers — now deliver both cutting-edge performance and exceptional reliability. This advance is sometimes referred to as “The Industrial Revolution in Ultrafast Science.”

Posted in: Articles, Features, Imaging, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, Amplifiers, Lasers, Reliability
Read More >>

Energy Harvesting's Emerging Role in a 'Smarter' World

When most individuals hear “energy harvesting,” they often think of alternative energy sources like wind and solar power. There is a distinct difference, however, between alternative energy and energy harvesting, or EH, approaches, based on the amount of power each can generate.

Posted in: Articles, Sensors, Sustainable development, Alternative fuels, Energy conservation, Off-board energy sources, On-board energy sources
Read More >>

Choosing the Right Hardware for Testing in Harsh Environments

Testing in rugged applications often includes testing in extreme temperature ranges, which can add constraints to hardware. Cold-start engine testing, for example, uses a test cell that can drop to -40 °C and requires continuous data acquisition such as temperature, pressure, and other various measurements. Placing hardware that is not built to withstand this range into harsh environments can cause components within the hardware to work incorrectly and result in incorrect data or damage to the hardware.

Posted in: Articles, Test & Measurement, Cold weather, Hardware, Test equipment and instrumentation
Read More >>

Human Spaceflight Takes a Giant Leap

NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025, and to Mars in the 2030s. While robotic explorers have studied Mars for more than 40 years, NASA’s path for the human exploration of Mars begins in low Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Astronauts on the ISS are proving many of the technologies and communications systems needed for human missions to deep space, including Mars. The ISS also advances understanding of how the body changes in space, and how to protect astronaut health.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Human factors, Life support systems, Medical, health, and wellness, Spacecraft
Read More >>

Suiting Up for the Future

NASA is developing the next generation of suit technologies that will enable deep-space exploration by incorporating advancements such as regenerable carbon dioxide removal systems and water evaporation systems that more efficiently provide crewmembers with core necessities such as breathing air and temperature regulation. Mobility and fit of a pressurized suit are extremely important in keeping astronauts productive, so NASA is focusing on spacesuit designs to help crews work more efficiently and safely during spacewalks.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Oxygen equipment, Thermal management, Spacesuits
Read More >>

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.