Motion Control

Elastomer Enables Soft Flapping Robotic Wings

Researchers have discovered a new resonance phenomenon in a dielectric elastomer rotary joint that can make the artificial joint bend up and down, like a flapping wing. The new phenomenon makes the dielectric elastomer joint a good candidate for creating a soft and lightweight flapping wing for robotic birds, which would be more efficient than bird wings based on electrical motors due to the higher energy conversion efficiency of the dielectric elastomer.

Posted in: News, Motion Control


Alcohol Ignition Lock Could Prevent Drunk Driving

If every new car made in the United States had a built-in blood alcohol level tester that prevented impaired drivers from driving the vehicle, how many lives could be saved, injuries prevented, and injury-related dollars left unspent? Researchers at the University of Michigan studied the impact of installing these alcohol ignition interlock devices in all newly purchased vehicles over a 15-year period.

Posted in: News, Motion Control


Aircraft with Hybrid Engine Can Recharge in Flight

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, in association with Boeing, have successfully tested the first aircraft to be powered by a parallel hybrid-electric propulsion system, where an electric motor and gas engine work together to drive the propeller. The demonstrator aircraft uses up to 30% less fuel than a comparable plane with a gas-only engine. The aircraft is also able to recharge its batteries in flight, the first time this has been achieved.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Batteries, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Green Design & Manufacturing, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission


Two-Stroke Engine Features Low Consumption and Fewer Emissions

Researchers have developed a new two-stroke engine notable for its low consumption and low level of pollutant emissions. The engine is the result of Powerful, a European project focusing on reduction in the engine’s weight and size using only two cylinders instead of the four used in the four-stroke engines currently on the market. Moreover, since it has fewer cylinders, the friction produced in the engine is reduced, increasing its mechanical output and, finally, its overall performance.

Posted in: News, Automotive, Motion Control, Power Transmission, Transportation


Supersonic Laser-Propelled Rockets Could Help Aircraft Exceed Mach 10

A new method for improving the thrust generated by laser-propulsion systems may bring them one step closer to practical use. The method, developed by physicists Yuri Rezunkov of the Institute of Optoelectronic Instrument Engineering, Russia, and Alexander Schmidt of the Ioffe Physical Technical Institute in Saint Petersburg, Russia, integrates a laser‑ablation propulsion system with the gas‑blasting nozzles of a spacecraft. Combining the two systems can increase the speed of the gas flow out of the system to supersonic speeds, while reducing the amount of burned fuel.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Motion Control, Power Transmission, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics


Ocean Gliders Measure Melting Polar Ice

The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potentially major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers have now found that swirling ocean eddies, similar to atmospheric storms, play an important role in transporting these warm waters to the Antarctic coast—a discovery that will help the scientific community determine how rapidly the ice is melting and, as a result, how quickly ocean levels will rise. "When you have a melting slab of ice, it can either melt from above because the atmosphere is getting warmer or it can melt from below because the ocean is warm," explains lead author Andrew Thompson, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering. "All of our evidence points to ocean warming as the most important factor affecting these ice shelves, so we wanted to understand the physics of how the heat gets there." Because the gliders are small—only about six feet long—and are very energy efficient, they can sample the ocean for much longer periods than large ships can. When the glider surfaces every few hours, it "calls" the researchers via a mobile phone–like device located on the tail. The communication allows the researchers to almost immediately access the information the glider has collected. Like airborne gliders, the bullet-shaped ocean gliders have no propeller; instead they use batteries to power a pump that changes the glider's buoyancy. When the pump pushes fluid into a compartment inside the glider, the glider becomes denser than seawater and less buoyant, thus causing it to sink. If the fluid is pumped instead into a bladder on the outside of the glider, the glider becomes less dense than seawater—and therefore more buoyant—ultimately rising to the surface. Like airborne gliders, wings convert this vertical lift into horizontal motion. Source Also: Learn about Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets and Snow.

Posted in: News, Communications, Batteries, Electronics & Computers, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Motion Control, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring, Test & Measurement


Engineers Harvest and Print Parts for New Breed of Aircraft

Student interns and engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center rapidly prototyped and redesigned aircraft using 3D-printed parts. The aircraft was custom-built by repurposing surplus Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). By lengthening the wings, the team was able to improve aerodynamic efficiency and help extend the flight time of small, lightweight electric aircraft. The prototype aircraft are constructed using components from Aerovironment RQ-14 Dragon Eye UAVs that NASA acquired from the United States Marine Corps via the General Services Administration's San Francisco office. Unmodified, these small electric aircraft weigh 5.9 pounds, have a 3.75-foot wingspan and twin electric motors, and can carry a one-pound instrument payload for up to an hour. After finalizing designs that featured longer and more slender wings and dual fuselages, the teams printed new parts including wing sections, nose cones, winglets, control surfaces, wing ribs and even propellers using the NASA Ames SpaceShop. The 3-D printed wing sections were reinforced using carbon fiber tubing or aluminum rods to give them extra strength without adding significant weight.Flying as high as 12,500 feet above sea level, multiple small converted Dragon Eye UAVs, including the specialized and highly modified “FrankenEye” platform, will study the chemistry of the eruption plume emissions from Turrialba volcano, near San Jose, Costa Rica. The goal of the activity is to improve satellite data research products, such as computer models of the concentration and distribution of volcanic gases, and transport-pathway models of volcanic plumes. Some volcanic plumes can reach miles above a summit vent, and drift hundreds to thousands of miles from an eruption site and can pose a severe public heath risk, as well as a potent threat to aircraft.SourceAlso: Learn about Real-Time Minimization of Tracking Error for Aircraft Systems.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Motion Control, Motors & Drives


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