Tech Briefs

Module for Oxygenating Water Without Generating Bubbles

No bubbles were observed at any of the test flow rates. A module that dissolves oxygen in water at concentrations approaching saturation, without generating bubbles of oxygen gas, has been developed as a prototype of improved oxygenators for water-disinfection and water-purification systems that utilize photocatalyzed redox reactions. Depending on the specific nature of a water-treatment system, it is desirable to prevent the formation of bubbles for one or more reasons: (1) Bubbles can remove some organic contaminants from the liquid phase to the gas phase, thereby introducing a gastreatment problem that complicates the overall water-treatment problem; and/or (2) in some systems (e.g., those that must function in microgravity or in any orientation in normal Earth gravity), bubbles can interfere with the flow of the liquid phase.

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Multisensor Arrays for Greater Reliability and Accuracy

Calibrations and replacements are needed less frequently than they are for single sensors.Arrays of multiple, nominally identical sensors with sensor-output-processing electronic hardware and software are being developed in order to obtain accuracy, reliability, and lifetime greater than those of single sensors. The conceptual basis of this development lies in the statistical behavior of multiple sensors and a multisensor-array (MSA) algorithm that exploits that behavior. In addition, advances in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and integrated circuits are exploited. A typical sensor unit according to this concept includes multiple MEMS sensors and sensor-readout circuitry fabricated together on a single chip and packaged compactly with a microprocessor that performs several functions, including execution of the MSA algorithm.

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Integrated-Optic Oxygen Sensors

Compact optical oxygen sensors with self-calibration capabilities are undergoing development. A sensor of this type features a single-chip, integrated-optic design implemented by photolithographic fabrication of optical waveguides in a photosensitive porous glass. The porosity serves as both a matrix for retention of an oxygensensitive fluorescent indicator chemical and a medium for diffusion of oxygen to the chemical from the ambient air to be monitored. Each sensor includes at least one such waveguide exposed to the atmosphere and at least one covered with metal for isolation from the atmosphere. The covered one serves as a reference channel. In operation, the concentration of oxygen is deduced from the intensity and lifetime of the fluorescence in the exposed channel, with the help of calibration data acquired via the reference channel. Because the sensory chemical is placed directly in and throughout the cross section of the light path, approximately 99 percent of the light in the waveguide is available for interaction with the chemical, in contradistinction to only about 1 percent of the light in an optical sensor that utilizes evanescentwave coupling. Hence, a sensor of this type is significantly more sensitive.

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Hybrid Piezoelectric/Fiber-Optic Sensor Sheets

Multiple sensors of different types could be installed on or in structures.Hybrid piezoelectric/fiber-optic (HyPFO) sensor sheets are undergoing development. They are intended for use in nondestructive evaluation and long-term monitoring of the integrity of diverse structures, including aerospace, aeronautical, automotive, and large stationary ones. It is anticipated that the further development and subsequent commercialization of the HyPFO sensor systems will lead to economic benefits in the form of increased safety, reduction of life-cycle costs through real-time structural monitoring, increased structural reliability, reduction of maintenance costs, and increased readiness for service.

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Hybrid Image-Plane/Stereo Manipulation

This method is robust in the face of calibration errors. Hybrid Image-Plane/Stereo (HIPS) manipulation is a method of processing image data, and of controlling a robotic manipulator arm in response to the data, that enables the manipulator arm to place an end-effector (an instrument or tool) precisely with respect to a target (see figure). Unlike other stereoscopic machine-vision-based methods of controlling robots, this method is robust in the face of calibration errors and changes in calibration during operation.

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Partitioning a Gridded Rectangle Into Smaller Rectangles

A relatively simple algorithm yields nearly square, nearly equally sized segments. A relatively simple algorithm, devised for use in an imagedata- compression application, partitions a rectangular pixelated image (or any other rectangle on which a regular rectangular grid has already been superimposed) into a specified number of smaller rectangles, hereafter denoted segments. The algorithm has the following properties: No floating-point operations are needed. The segments tend to be nearly square (in the sense that their widths and heights in pixel units tend to be nearly equal). The segments tend to have nearly equal areas. The algorithm yields valid results (no zero-width or zeroheight segments) as long as the specified number of segments, s, does not exceed the number of pixels (equivalently, the number of grid cells).

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Digital Radar-Signal Processors Implemented in FPGAs

Processing can be performed onboard at relatively low power. High-performance digital electronic circuits for onboard processing of return signals in an airborne precipitation - measuring radar system have been implemented in commercially available field - programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Previously, it was standard practice to downlink the radar-return data to a ground station for postprocessing - a costly practice that prevents the nearly - real - time use of the data for automated targeting. In principle, the onboard processing could be performed by a system of about 20 personal - computer-type microprocessors; relative to such a system, the present FPGA-based processor is much smaller and consumes much less power. Alternatively, the onboard processing could be performed by an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), but in comparison with an ASIC implementation, the present FPGA implementation offers the advantages of (1) greater flexibility for research applications like the present one and (2) lower cost in the small production volumes typical of research applications.

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