Test & Measurement

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.


Posted in: News, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

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, Electronics & Computers, Diagnostics, Medical, Fiber Optics, Optics, Photonics, Semiconductors & ICs, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement

Imaging Technique Could Detect Acoustically “Invisible” Cracks

It has long been understood that acoustic nonlinearity is sensitive to many physical properties including material microstructure and mechanical damage. The lack of effective imaging has, however, held back the use of this important method. Currently, engineers are able to produce images of the interior of components using ultrasound, but can only detect large problems such as cracks.

Posted in: News, Imaging, Test & Measurement

Webb Telescope’s Heart Survives Deep-Freeze Test

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like those in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, emerged unscathed from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, RF & Microwave Electronics, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

Researchers Measure Stress in 3D-Printed Metal Parts

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed an efficient method to measure residual stress in metal parts produced by powder-bed fusion additive manufacturing (AM).The 3D-printing process produces metal parts layer by layer using a high-energy laser beam to fuse metal powder particles. When each layer is complete, the build platform moves downward by the thickness of one layer, and a new powder layer is spread on the previous layer.While the method produces quality parts and components, residual stress is a major problem during the fabrication process. Large temperature changes near the last melt spot, and the repetition of this process, result in localized expansion and contraction.An LLNL research team, led by engineer Amanda Wu, has developed an accurate residual stress measurement method that combines traditional stress-relieving methods (destructive analysis) with modern technology: digital image correlation (DIC). The process provides fast and accurate measurements of surface-level residual stresses in AM parts.The team used DIC to produce a set of quantified residual stress data for AM, exploring laser parameters. DIC is a cost-effective, image analysis method in which a dual camera setup is used to photograph an AM part once before it’s removed from the build plate for analysis and once after. The part is imaged, removed, and then re-imaged to measure the external residual stress.SourceAlso: Learn about Design and Analysis of Metal-to-Composite Nozzle Extension Joints.

Posted in: News, Cameras, Imaging, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Metals, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement

NASA Computer Model Reveals Carbon Dioxide Levels

An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres, and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.Scientists have made ground-based measurements of carbon dioxide for decades and in July NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite to make global, space-based carbon observations. But the simulation — the product of a new computer model that is among the highest-resolution ever created — is the first to show in such fine detail how carbon dioxide actually moves through the atmosphere.In addition to providing a striking visual description of the movements of an invisible gas like carbon dioxide, as it is blown by the winds, this kind of high-resolution simulation will help scientists better project future climate. Engineers can also use this model to test new satellite instrument concepts to gauge their usefulness. The model allows engineers to build and operate a “virtual” instrument inside a computer.SourceAlso: Learn about the NASA Data Acquisition System (NDAS).

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Electronics & Computers, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Greenhouse Gases, Software, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement

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.


Also: Learn about Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets and Snow.

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

High-Res Line Camera Measures Magnetic Fields in Real Time

Scientists have developed a high‑resolution magnetic line camera to measure magnetic fields in real time. Field lines in magnetic systems such as generators or motors that are invisible to the human eye can be made visible using this camera. It is especially suitable for industrial applications in quality assurance during the manufacture of magnets.

Posted in: News, Cameras, Imaging, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Sensors, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement

Sensors Monitor Dangerous Hits on the Football Field

In football, a tackle can supply 100 Gs of force or more, well above the amount that can cause a concussion and more than 10 times the force of an F‑16 jet roll maneuver. University of Florida (UF) researchers are using the helmets of Gator football players to help measure the force of on‑field hits to better understand and prevent concussions, and treat them before they cause lasting damage.

Posted in: News, Medical, Patient Monitoring, Sensors, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

Space-Based Instrument Monitors Plant Health

A new space‑based instrument to study how effectively plants use water is being developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) will monitor one of the most basic processes in living plants: the loss of water through the tiny pores in leaves, or transpiration. ECOSTRESS will measure combined evaporation and transpiration, known as evapotranspiration, from the International Space Station.

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

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