Test & Measurement

NASA to Launch Soil Moisture Mapper

A NASA spacecraft designed to track Earth's water in one of its most important, but least recognized forms — soil moisture — now is at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to begin final preparations for launch in January.The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) spacecraft arrived Wednesday at its launch site on California's central coast after traveling from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The spacecraft will undergo final tests and then be integrated on top of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket in preparation for a planned Jan. 29 launch.SMAP will provide the most accurate, highest-resolution global measurements of soil moisture ever obtained from space and will detect whether the ground is frozen or thawed. The data will be used to enhance scientists' understanding of the processes that link Earth's water, energy and carbon cycles.Soil moisture is critical for plant growth and supplies aquifers, which are underground water supplies contained in layers of rock, sand or dirt. Through evaporation, water in the soil cools the land surface and lower atmosphere while seeding the upper atmosphere with moisture that forms clouds and rain. High-resolution global maps of soil moisture produced from SMAP will allow scientists to understand how regional water availability is changing and inform water resource management decisions.“Water is vital for all life on Earth, and the water present in soil is a small but critically important part of Earth’s water cycle," said Kent Kellogg, SMAP project manager at JPL. “The delivery of NASA’s SMAP spacecraft to Vandenberg Air Force Base marks a final step to bring these unique and valuable measurements to the global science community.”SourceAlso: Learn about a Carbon Dioxide Sensor with Low Detection Limit.

Posted in: News, Environmental Monitoring, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring


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, Wireless, Power Management, Sensors, Monitoring


Ferroelectric Materials Could Revolutionize Data-Driven Devices

Electronic devices with unprecedented efficiency and data storage may someday run on ferroelectrics — remarkable materials that use built-in electric polarizations to read and write digital information, outperforming the magnets that are inside most popular data-driven technology. But ferroelectrics must first overcome a few key stumbling blocks, including a curious habit of "forgetting" stored data. Now, however, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered nanoscale asymmetries and charge preferences hidden within ferroelectrics that may explain their operational limits.

Posted in: News, Board-Level Electronics, Computers, Electronic Components, Electronics, Power Management, Metals, Measuring Instruments


Automated Imaging System Analyzes Underground Root Systems

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Penn State University have developed an automated imaging technique for measuring and analyzing the root systems of mature plants. The technique, believed to be the first of its kind, uses advanced computer technology to analyze photographs taken of root systems in the field. The imaging and software are designed to give scientists the statistical information they need to evaluate crop improvement efforts.“We’ve produced an imaging system to evaluate the root systems of plants in field conditions,” said Alexander Bucksch, a postdoctoral fellow in the Georgia Tech School of Biology and School of Interactive Computing. “We can measure entire root systems for thousands of plants to give geneticists the information they need to search for genes with the best characteristics.”Imaging of root systems has, until now, largely been done in the laboratory, using seedlings grown in small pots and containers. Such studies provide information on the early stages of development, and do not directly quantify the effects of realistic growing conditions or field variations in water, soil, or nutrient levels.The technique developed by Georgia Tech and Penn State researchers uses digital photography to provide a detailed image of roots from mature plants in the field. Individual plants to be studied are dug up and their root systems washed clean of soil. The roots are then photographed against a black background using a standard digital camera pointed down from a tripod. A white fabric tent surrounding the camera system provides consistent lighting.The resulting images are then uploaded to a server running software that analyzes the root systems for more than 30 different parameters, including the diameter of tap roots, root density, the angles of brace roots, and detailed measures of lateral roots.SourceAlso: Learn about Strobing to Enhance Display Legibility.

Posted in: News, Cameras, Measuring Instruments


High Precision Multi-channel PXIe Systems Realize More Efficient Wind Tunnel Testing

Wind tunnel testing is widely used in large-scale aerodynamic design projects. Even so, the requirement for large numbers of sensors over large areas of the devices to be tested presents major challenges in data acquisition and retrieval. The article discusses use of multi-channel PXIe systems to achieve fully synchronous, high-efficiency, highly precise measurement solutions. Attributes include: PXIe technology providing effective single-system integration with multiple combinations of a wide variety of sensors PXIe platforms’ PC-based structure delivering easily deployed superior computing power along with networking capability, minimizing development time and simplifying setup

Posted in: White Papers


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, Environmental Monitoring, Greenhouse Gases, Sensors, Monitoring


How to Maximize Temperature Measurement Accuracy

Thermocouples are the most versatile and widely used devices for temperature measurements. Most test engineers are aware of the measurement errors caused by thermocouples but not always about the errors caused by the measurement system itself. This technical note will focus on the lesser known and important aspect called "Self-Calibration" and how it can be used to overcome errors in temperature measurement.

Posted in: White Papers


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