Environment

Transient Electronics Dissolve When Triggered

An Iowa State research team led by Reza Montazami is developing "transient materials" and "transient electronics" that can quickly and completely melt away when a trigger is activated. The development could mean that one day you might be able to send out a signal to destroy a lost credit card.

To demonstrate that potential, Montazami played a video showing a blue light-emitting diode mounted on a clear polymer composite base with the electrical leads embedded inside. After a drop of water, the base and wiring began to melt away.

As the technology develops, Montazami sees more and more potential for the commercial application of transient materials. A medical device, once its job is done, could harmlessly melt away inside a person’s body. A military device could collect and send its data and then disappear, leaving no trace of an intelligence mission. An environmental sensor could collect climate information, then wash away in the rain.

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Also: Read other Electronics & Computers tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Defense, Electronic Components, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, LEDs, Lighting, Composites, Materials, Plastics, Medical, Semiconductors & ICs
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Wireless Device Senses Chemical Vapors

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 myriad applications in military, commercial, environmental, and healthcare areas.

The current design integrates nanotechnology and radio-frequency identification (RFID) capabilities into a small working prototype. An array of sensors uses carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials to detect specific chemicals, while an RFID integrated circuit informs users about the presence and concentrations of those vapors at a safe distance wirelessly.

Because it is based on programmable digital technology, the RFID component can provide greater security, reliability and range – and much smaller size – than earlier sensor designs based on non-programmable analog technology. The present GTRI prototype is 10 centimeters square, but further designs are expected to squeeze a multiple-sensor array and an RFID chip into a one-millimeter-square device printable on paper or on flexible, durable substrates such as liquid crystal polymer.

Source

Also: Learn about Extended-Range Passive RFID and Sensor Tags.

Posted in: News, Communications, Wireless, Defense, Electronic Components, Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Medical, Nanotechnology, RF & Microwave Electronics, Semiconductors & ICs, Detectors, Sensors
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Mini Science Lab Detects Multiple Bio Agents

It can cost hundreds of dollars and days to scan biological materials for important biomarkers that signal diseases such as diabetes or cancer using industry standard equipment. Researchers face enormous time constraints and financial hurdles from having to run these analyses on a regular basis. A Northeastern University professor has developed a single instrument that can do multiple scans at a fraction of the time and cost. That's because it uses considerably less material and ultra-sensitive detection methods to do the same thing.

ScanDrop is a portable instrument no bigger than a shoebox that has the capacity to detect a variety of biological specimen. For that reason it will benefit a wide range of users beyond the medical community, including environmental monitoring and basic scientific research.

The instrument acts as a miniature science lab, of sorts. It contains a tiny chip, made of polymer or glass, connected to equally tiny tubes. An extremely small-volume liquid sample — whether it's water or a biological fluid such as serum — flows in one of those tubes, through the lab-on-a-chip device, and out the other side. While inside, the sample is exposed to a slug of microscopic beads functionalized to react with the lab test's search parameters. The beads fluoresce when the specific marker or cell in question has been detected; from there, an analysis by ScanDrop can provide the concentration levels of that marker or cell.

Because the volumes being tested with ScanDrop are so small, the testing time dwindles to just minutes. This means you could get near-real time measures of a changing sample — be it bacteria levels in a flowing body of water or dynamic insulin levels in the bloodstream of a person with diabetes.

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Posted in: News, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Fluid Handling, Diagnostics, Medical, Motion Control, Detectors, Sensors, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement
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Researchers Combine Antennas and Solar Cells

Researchers have combined antennas and solar cells to work together with unprecedented efficiency. The development is a first step towards more compact, lightweight satellites. The technology could also be deployed in the autonomous antenna systems used in the aftermath of natural disasters.

For their study, the researchers used so-called reflectarray (RA) antennas, which have the advantage of being flat, relatively cheap, and highly efficient. The antennas were combined with thin-film amorphous-silicon solar cells developed by PV-Lab.

In the device, a set of conductors (resonators) is placed on top of the solar cells. The layering makes it possible for the cells to maintain up to 90% of their photovoltaic efficiency.

Source

Also: Learn about a UHF Antenna for Extreme Martian Thermal Environments.

Posted in: News, Green Design & Manufacturing
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2013 Create the Future Design: Consumer Products Category Winner

Plant Air Purifier

James Schaeffer, Bill Wolverton, Wayne Schaeffer, and Bernarr Schaeffer
U.S. Health Equipment Co.,
Kingston, NY

The Plant Air Purifier is a new air-cleaning appliance that utilizes the recently discovered air-cleaning capacity of rootassociated microbes living synergistically with common houseplants to trap and consume toxins in the air. The research behind this was done by Bill Wolverton while working in NASA’s space program. He found that low levels of chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can be removed from indoor environments by plant leaves alone, while higher concentrations of numerous toxic chemicals can be removed by filtering indoor air though the plant roots surrounded by activated carbon. The activated carbon absorbs large quantities of the toxic chemicals and retains them until the plant roots and associated microorganisms degrade and assimilate these chemicals.

Posted in: Articles, Environmental Monitoring, Biological sciences, Human factors, Medical equipment and supplies, Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), Product development, Chemicals
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2013 Create the Future Design Contest

The 2013 Create the Future Design Contest — sponsored by COMSOL, SAE International, and Tech Briefs Media Group (publishers of NASA Tech Briefs) — recognized innovation in product design in eight categories: Aerospace & Defense (new this year), Consumer Products, Electronics, Machinery & Equipment, Medical, Safety & Security, Sustainable Technologies, and Transportation & Automotive. On the following pages, you’ll meet the Grand Prize Winner, as well as the winners and Honorable Mentions in all eight categories. Congratulations to this year’s winners, and thanks to the more than 900 entrants from across the globe who submitted their design ideas. To view the entries online, visit www.createthefuturecontest.com

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Defense, Electronics, Green Design & Manufacturing, Medical, Automation, Transportation, Design processes
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Water Treatment Technologies Inspire Healthy Beverages

Purification techniques for astronaut drinking water find use in probiotic drinks.

At NASA’s Johnson Space Center in the mid-1990s, Mike Johnson assisted the scientists who were developing technology to convert urine into drinking water. The research conducted by the Advanced Water Recovery Systems Development team has proven vital to space exploration. Thanks in part to their work, astronauts in low Earth orbit make the most of their resources, and those who will take part in future missions — like a trip to an asteroid or Mars — can count on having drinkable water for the journey.

Posted in: Articles, Green Design & Manufacturing, Water reclamation, Water treatment, Technical reference, Technical review
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Sustainable Technologies Category Winner (Winner of an HP Workstation)

Aquaback Water Purification System

Bill Zebuhr, Scott Newquist, David Dussault, E. Andrew Condon, Steven Sahagian, Nicholas Wong, Michael Easton, William Burie, Charles Blanchard, and Nicole Sandoval, Aquaback Technologies, Tewksbury, MA

A highly efficient, low-cost, lowmaintenance, compact, modular vapor compression distiller is designed to be the water processing module in a wide variety of water processing systems to clean incoming water or reclaim waste water. The systems will enable recycling of most water for any use, including potable water, at a lower overall cost than any other technology or combinations of technologies, addressing water supply and disposal problems worldwide. Distillation provides the highest-purity water in a single operation, but until now, distillers have been too expensive to make or operate to be practical. Aquaback has optimized every aspect of distillation using the known vapor compression method to recycle over 99% of the heat of vaporization using a mass-manufactured, self-cleaning design.

Posted in: Articles, Green Design & Manufacturing, Water reclamation, Water treatment, Energy conservation, Compressors
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Promoting Virtual Power Plants for Efficient Renewable Energy Production

Researchers from the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton have devised a novel method for forming virtual power plants (VPPs) to provide renewable energy production in the UK. Small and distributed energy resources (DERs), such as wind farms and solar panels, have been appearing in greater numbers in the electricity supply network (Grid).

Posted in: News, News, Renewable Energy, Solar Power, Wind Power, Smart Grid, Mathematical/Scientific Software, Software
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Detecting Contaminants in Water

Many organic contaminants in the air and in drinking water need to be detected at very low-level concentrations. Research published by the laboratory of Prashant V. Kamat, the John A. Zahm Professor of Science at the University of Notre Dame, could be beneficial in detecting those contaminants.

Posted in: News, News, Environmental Monitoring, Metals, Semiconductors & ICs, Detectors, Sensors
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