RF & Microwave Electronics

3D Audio Research Helps Make Cockpit Safer

Imagine yourself in a cockpit, flying a mission, listening to a multitude of critical voices delivering vital messages, all at the same time and from the same direction. Now imagine the same environment, except that the voices are now distinct and separate. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has developed 3D sound technology that creates a sound environment that mimics the way the human body receives aural cues, much like 3D movies create the perception that the viewer is part of the movie.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Communications, RF & Microwave Electronics

NASA Technologists Advance Next-Generation 3D Imaging

Building, fixing, and refueling space-based assets or rendezvousing with a comet or asteroid will require a robotic vehicle and a super-precise, high-resolution 3D imaging lidar that generates the real-time images needed to guide the vehicle to a target traveling at thousands of miles per hour.A team of technologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is developing a next-generation 3D scanning lidar — dubbed the Goddard Reconfigurable Solid-state Scanning Lidar (GRSSLi) — that could provide the imagery required to execute these orbital dances.Equipped with a low-power, eye-safe laser, a micro-electro-mechanical scanner, and a single photodetector, GRSSLi will "paint" a scene with the scanning laser. Its detector will sense the reflected light to create a high-resolution 3-D image at kilometer distances — a significant increase in capability over current imaging lidars that are effective only at meter distances.Just as important, the instrument is equipped with onboard "vision" algorithms that interpret the three-dimensional image returned by the lidar. The softwar estimates location and attitude of a target relative to the lidar.SourceAlso: Learn about NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Imaging, Visualization Software, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, RF & Microwave Electronics

NASA Team Proposes Laser for Orbital Debris Tracking

Barry Coyle and Paul Stysley, laser researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, want to develop a method to define and track orbital debris using laser ranging — a promising approach that could overcome shortfalls with passive optical and radar techniques, which debris trackers use today to locate and track dead satellites, spacecraft components, and other remnants orbiting in low-Earth or geosynchronous orbits where most space assets reside.Inspired by an Australian study that found laser tracking increased the accuracy of debris ranging by a factor of 10 when compared with other methods, Coyle and Stysley now "want to reproduce the results from this paper on a larger scale," using Goddard’s Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory (GGAO). The GGAO satellite laser-ranging team, led by Goddard’s Jan McGarry, has advanced laser-ranging techniques using satellites equipped with retro-reflectors, becoming world leaders in the field.GGAO’s 48-inch telescope, which transmits outgoing and receives incoming laser beams, was built in the early 1970s as a research and development and testing facility for laser ranging, lidar, and astronomical instruments. The facility has ranged to spacecraft at planetary distances and has been used to provide on-orbit calibration of some of Goddard’s altimetry spacecraft. NASA also used the facility in 2005 to determine the performance of the laser-altimeter instrument aboard its MESSENGER spacecraft as it flew past Earth during its sojourn to Mercury.Once the team demonstrates ranging with a target not equipped with the retro-reflector, it would like to implement the technique in a global network of ground-based laser observatories to observe and more accurately track debris, thus aiding the world’s current debris-tracking efforts.Although it’s difficult removing the material itself, NASA mission operators can minimize its impact on operational space assets. They can move non-operational spacecraft to less populated orbits to remove the threat to new missions or allow dead craft to re-enter the atmosphere, where they burn up upon entry. What’s essential is that these assets are tracked and monitored to protect active and future missions from potentially harmful collisions, Coyle said.SourceAlso: Learn about a Debris & Ice Mapping Analysis Tool.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, RF & Microwave Electronics

No-Power Wi-Fi Connectivity Could Fuel Internet of Things

Imagine a world in which your wristwatch or other wearable device communicates directly with your online profiles, storing information about your daily activities where you can best access it, all without requiring batteries. Or, battery-free sensors embedded around your home that could track minute-by-minute temperature changes and send that information to your thermostat to help conserve energy.

Posted in: News, Products, Communications, Wireless, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, RF & Microwave Electronics, Sensors, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

Tiny Wireless Sensing Device Alerts Users to Telltale Vapors Remotely

A research team at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has developed a small electronic sensing device that can alert users wirelessly to the presence of chemical vapors in the atmosphere. The technology, which could be manufactured using familiar aerosol-jet printing techniques, is aimed at a variety of applications in military, commercial, environmental, healthcare and other areas.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Board-Level Electronics, Electronic Components, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Nanotechnology, RF & Microwave Electronics, Semiconductors & ICs, Detectors, Sensors

NASA and Partners Use Sensing Technology to Target Megacities Carbon Emissions

The Megacities Carbon Project is an international, multi-agency pilot initiative to develop and test ways to monitor greenhouse gas emissions in megacities: metropolitan areas of at least 10 million people. Cities and their power plants are the largest sources of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions and are the largest human contributors to climate change.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Greenhouse Gases, RF & Microwave Electronics, Sensors, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

Wireless Sensing Lets Users “Train” Smartphones for Gesture Control

University of Washington researchers have developed a new form of low-power wireless sensing technology that could soon let users “train” their smartphones to recognize and respond to specific hand gestures near the phone. The “SideSwipe” technology uses the phone’s wireless transmissions to sense nearby gestures, so it works when a device is out of sight in a pocket or bag and could easily be built into future smartphones and tablets.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Electronics & Computers, PCs/Portable Computers, Antennas, RF & Microwave Electronics, Detectors, Sensors

International Space Station Test Analyzes Rotation of Objects in Space

Objects in space tend to spin in a way that's totally different from the way they spin on Earth. Understanding how objects are spinning, where their centers of mass are, and how their mass is distributed is crucial to any space mission. MIT researchers developed a new algorithm for gauging the rotation of objects in zero gravity using only visual information. They tested the algorithm aboard the International Space Station.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Cameras, Imaging, RF & Microwave Electronics, Simulation Software, Software, Test & Measurement

Researchers Control Surface Tension of Liquid Metals

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique for controlling the surface tension of liquid metals by applying very low voltages, opening the door to a new generation of reconfigurable electronic circuits, antennas and other technologies. The technique hinges on the fact that the oxide “skin” of the metal – which can be deposited or removed – acts as a surfactant, lowering the surface tension between the metal and the surrounding fluid.The researchers used a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium. In base, the bare alloy has a remarkably high surface tension of about 500 millinewtons (mN)/meter, which causes the metal to bead up into a spherical blob.

“But we discovered that applying a small, positive charge – less than 1 volt – causes an electrochemical reaction that creates an oxide layer on the surface of the metal, dramatically lowering the surface tension from 500 mN/meter to around 2 mN/meter,” says Dr. Michael Dickey, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work. “This change allows the liquid metal to spread out like a pancake, due to gravity.”The researchers also showed that the change in surface tension is reversible. If researchers flip the polarity of the charge from positive to negative, the oxide is eliminated and high surface tension is restored.  The surface tension can be tuned between these two extremes by varying the voltage in small steps.SourceAlso: Learn about Gradient Metal Alloys Fabricated Using Additive Manufacturing.

Posted in: News, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Materials, Metals, Antennas, RF & Microwave Electronics

Agile Aperture Antenna Tested on Aircraft

Department of Defense representatives were in attendance during a recent event where two of the low-power devices, which can change beam directions in a thousandth of a second, were demonstrated in an aircraft during flight tests held in Virginia. One device, looking up, maintained a satellite data connection as the aircraft changed headings, banked and rolled, while the other antenna looked down to track electromagnetic emitters on the ground.

Posted in: News, Antennas

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