Tech Briefs

Piezoelectric Actuator with Dual Horns that are Separately Controllable to Drive Miniature Vehicles Along a Single Axis

The technology enables miniature vehicles to operate in extreme environments for space, military, and industrial uses.Actuators are a critical driver of all the mechanisms used in space, and improvements of their operation mechanism enhance mission capabilities. The disclosed invention is a new type of actuator that simultaneously drives dual mechanisms (e.g., rotors, wheels, etc.) at opposite sides of a piezoelectric stack using the generated vibrations. The actuator consists of dual-sided horns and is capable of operating ratcheting mechanisms through walls.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Sensors and actuators, Performance upgrades, Vibration, Electric drives, Spacecraft

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Chain Drive Dust Conveyer

This method clears cutting fines from a sampling tool without the use of fluids. A chain drive through a tube is used to convey dust and fines. The chain can maneuver in any angle within a certain allowable bend radius. The catch features can be spherical or cylindrical. The Mars 2020 coring drill will generate a significant amount of dust and debris (known as fines) due to the volume of milled material displaced by the corer’s annulus. These cuttings must be removed to ensure that the drill does not jam. The typical method involves fluids, which may not work on Mars due to the atmospheric conditions.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Particulate matter (PM), Ground vehicle operations, Product development, Drilling, Spacecraft

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Robot Powertrain Moves Toward Energy Autonomy

A smart gear box can significantly reduce energy consumption for future dyke inspection robots.Inspecting the condition of dykes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for a team of robots. They consume a lot of energy to move across the dykes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day. Because charging stations are not a realistic scenario, University of Twente researcher Douwe Dresscher looked at making the robot as energy autonomous as possible. He obtained good results by having the robot store mechanical — rather than electrical — energy, and by introducing an innovative automatic gear box. The gear box is a modern version of the “variomatic” model used in Dutch DAF automobiles. While the variomatic uses a belt drive, the inspection robot uses two metal hemispheres.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Robotics, On-board energy sources, Product development, Robotics, Gears, Inspections, Marine vehicles and equipment

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Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

Universal benchmarks can standardize the measurement of robotic manipulation tasks.The Yale-CMU-Berkeley (YCB) Object and Model Set provides universal benchmarks for labs specializing in robotic manipulation and prosthetics. About two years ago, Aaron Dollar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale University, came up with the benchmark idea to bring a level of specificity and universality to manipulation tasks in robotics research. He enlisted the help of two former colleagues in the robotics community, Dr. Siddhartha Srinivasa from Carnegie-Mellon University and Dr. Pieter Abbeel of the University of California, Berkeley.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control, Automation, Kinematics, Research and development, Robotics, Quality standards, Biomechanics

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Reliability Testing of High-Power Devices

Before a new high-power semiconductor device can be used for industrial applications, it must be thoroughly tested to determine if it will survive environmental stresses and continue to meet specifications. This is especially true for the latest wide-bandgap semiconductor materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) to ensure they can withstand high voltage and temperatures.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, High voltage systems, Semiconductors, Reliability, Test procedures, Thermal testing

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Electronic Device Monitors the Heart and Recognizes Speech

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and Northwestern University have developed a tiny, soft, and wearable acoustic sensor that measures vibrations in the human body, allowing them to monitor human heart health and recognize spoken words. The stretchable device captures physiological sound signals from the body, has physical properties matched with human skin, and can be mounted on nearly any surface of the body. The sensor resembles a small Band-Aid®, weighs less than one-hundredth of an ounce, and can gather continuous physiological data.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Measurements, Cardiovascular system, Prostheses and implants, Acoustics, Vibration

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Split Laser System for Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring — the assessment of air, water, and soil quality — is highly important to oil and gas exploration companies, landowners, regulatory agencies, municipalities, and any organization measuring emissions and pollutants. The majority of monitoring technologies, however, are expensive and labor intensive, often requiring sample collection and preparation (i.e., external lab analysis) that can dramatically alter the sample and its inherent components. Of those technologies that do allow for in-situ analysis, few are amenable to measurements under harsh conditions, such as high temperature and/or pressure.

Posted in: Briefs, Test & Measurement, Lasers, Environmental testing, Test equipment and instrumentation, Test procedures

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