Test & Measurement

Sphere Versus 45°/0° Versus Multi-angle: A Discussion Of Industrial Use Cases

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ORCA Prototype Ready to Observe Ocean

If selected for a NASA flight mission, the Ocean Radiometer for Carbon Assessment (ORCA) instrument will study microscopic phytoplankton, the tiny green plants that float in the upper layer of the ocean and make up the base of the marine food chain.Conceived in 2001 as the next technological step forward in observing ocean color, the ORCA-development team used funding from Goddard’s Internal Research and Development program and NASA’s Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) to develop a prototype. Completed in 2014, ORCA now is a contender as the primary instrument on an upcoming Earth science mission.The ORCA prototype has a scanning telescope designed to sweep across 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of ocean at a time. The technology collects light reflected from the sea surface that then passes through a series of mirrors, optical filters, gratings, and lenses. The components direct the light onto an array of detectors that cover the full range of wavelengths.Instead of observing a handful of discrete bands at specific wavelengths reflected off the ocean, ORCA measures a range of bands, from 350 nanometers to 900 nanometers at five-nanometer resolution. The sensor will see the entire rainbow, including the color gradations of green that fade into blue. In addition to the hyperspectral bands, the instrument has three short-wave infrared bands that measure specific wavelengths between 1200 and 2200 nanometers for atmospheric applications.The NASA researchers will use ORCA to obtain more accurate measurements of chlorophyll concentrations, the size of a phytoplankton bloom, and how much carbon it holds. Detecting chlorophyll in various wavelengths also will allow the team to distinguish between types of phytoplankton. Suspended sediments in coastal regions could also be detected by the instrument.SourceAlso: Learn about a Ultra-Low-Maintenance Portable Ocean Power Station.

Posted in: News, Optics, Photonics, Sensors, Measuring Instruments

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Energy Harvesting Could Help Power Spacecraft of the Future

A consortium is working on a project to maximize energy harvesting on a spacecraft of the future. The initiative seeks to find energy-saving and -maximizing solutions to enable eco-friendly aircraft to stay in space for long periods of time without the need to return to Earth to re-fuel, or to avoid carrying vast amounts of heavy fuel on long-stay journeys.

Posted in: News, Aviation, Energy Efficiency, Energy Harvesting

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NASA Robot Explores Volcanoes

Carolyn Parcheta, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and JPL robotics researcher Aaron Parness are developing robots that can explore volcanic fissures."We don't know exactly how volcanoes erupt. We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic," Parcheta said.Parcheta, Parness, and JPL co-advisor Karl Mitchell first explored this idea last year using a two-wheeled robot they call VolcanoBot 1, with a length of 12 inches (30 centimeters) and 6.7-inch (17-centimeter) wheels.VolcanoBot 2, smaller and lighter than its predecessor, will explore Hawaii's Kilauea volcano in March 2015. Parcheta's research endeavors were recently honored in National Geographic’s Expedition Granted campaign. SourceAlso: Learn about Autonomous Response for Targeting and Monitoring of Volcanic Activity.

Posted in: News, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring

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Forensic Tracers Identify Contamination in Water

Duke University scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. The tools can be used by regulatory agencies to monitor the environmental effects of coal ash, and determine whether it has or hasn’t impacted the environment. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool. The tracers, which have been tested both in the laboratory and the field, are based on the distinctive isotopic and geochemical signatures of two elements, boron and strontium, found in coal ash effluent. The U.S. EPA has submitted a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget to restrict coal ash disposal into the environment and, for the first time, establish federal regulations to govern how the ash is stored and disposed. Source:

Posted in: News, Environmental Monitoring, Monitoring

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Technology Diagnoses Brain Damage from Concussions, Strokes, and Dementia

New optical diagnostic technology developed at Tufts University School of Engineering promises new ways to identify and monitor brain damage resulting from traumatic injury, stroke, or vascular dementia in real time and without invasive procedures.

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Diagnostics, Fiber Optics, Optics, Photonics, Measuring Instruments

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Analog Signal Conditioning for Accurate Measurements

By Jon Titus Q: Should I put some sort of circuit between my sensor and an analog-to-digital converter? A:Yes. You probably need some signal conditioning. The explanation below goes on for a bit, but stay with it and you'll understand what you need and why you need it. Before you make any connections, get the electrical specifications for the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and for the sensor or sensors in your system. Let's assume the data-acquisition module uses a Maxim Integrated Products MAX197 12-bit ADC. This device can accept eight differential (2-wire) inputs or 16 single-ended (1-wire) inputs. Maxim's specifications show an input impedance of 21 kohms for single-ended inputs and 16 kohms for differential inputs.

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