Tech Briefs

Two- and Three-Dimensional Near-Infrared Subcutaneous Structure Imager Using Adaptive Nonlinear Video Processing

The battery-powered system uses off-the-shelf near-infrared technology that is not affected by melanin content, and can also operate in dark environments. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio Scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have successfully developed a novel subcutaneous structure imager for locating veins in challenging patient populations, such as juvenile, elderly, dark-skinned, or obese patients. Spurred initially by the needs of pediatric sickle-cell anemia patients in Africa, Glenn’s groundbreaking system includes a camera-processor-display apparatus and uses an innovative image-processing method to provide two- or three-dimensional, high-contrast visualization of veins or other vasculature structures. In addition to assisting practitioners to find veins in challenging populations, this system can also help novice healthcare workers locate veins for procedures such as needle insertion or excision. Compared to other state-of-the-art solutions, the imager is inexpensive, compact, and very portable, so it can be used in remote third-world areas, emergency response situations, or military battlefields.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging

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Methods of Real-Time Image Enhancement of Flash LIDAR Data and Navigating a Vehicle Using Flash LIDAR Data

Applications include robotic ground vehicle collision avoidance, topographical/terrain mapping, and automotive adaptive cruise control. Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia The original (left) and enhanced resolution Flash LIDAR images. NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed 3D imaging technologies (Flash LIDAR) for real-time terrain mapping and synthetic vision-based navigation. To take advantage of the information inherent in a sequence of 3D images acquired at video rates, NASA Langley has also developed an embedded image-processing algorithm that can simultaneously correct, enhance, and derive relative motion by processing this image sequence into a high-resolution 3D synthetic image. Traditional scanning LIDAR techniques generate an image frame by raster scanning an image one laser pulse per pixel at a time, whereas Flash LIDAR acquires an image much like an ordinary camera, generating an image using a single laser pulse. The benefits of the Flash LIDAR technique and the corresponding image-to-image processing enable autonomous vision-based guidance and control for robotic systems. The current algorithm offers up to eight times image resolution enhancement, as well as a 6-degree-of-freedom state vector of motion in the image frame.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging

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Spatially Aberrated Spectral Filtering for High-Performance Spectral Imaging

This innovation has application in the biomedical research, semiconductor, and analysis/characterization fields. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California High-performance thermal imagers like Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) currently use a three-mirror anastigmat (TMA) optical design to image remote targets. A TMA telescope is built with three curved mirrors, enabling it to minimize all three main optical aberrations: spherical aberration, coma, and astigmatism. This is primarily used to enable wide fields of view, much larger than possible with telescopes with just one or two curved surfaces.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging

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A Common-Mode Digital Holographic Microscope

This instrument has no moving parts and allows scientists to image in 3D and in real time. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Digital holography is a fast-growing field in optics, recently spurred by the advent of large-format digital cameras and high-speed computers. This method provides a time-series of volumetric information about a sample, but the instrument itself has no moving parts. It does not compromise performance such as image quality and spatial resolution. However, these systems are typically implemented as optical interferometers with two separate beam paths: one is the reference beam and the other is the science beam. Interferometers are sensitive instruments that are subject to misalignment, and they will have significantly reduced performance in the presence of mechanical vibrations.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging

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High Field Superconducting Magnets

Applications include MRI machines, mass spectrometers, and particle accelerators. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland A modified coil winding machine for small-diameter wire being used to enable higher packing densities for the superconducting magnets. This superconducting magnet developed at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center comprises a superconducting wire wound in adjacent turns about a mandrel to form the superconducting magnet; a thermally conductive potting material configured to fill interstices between the adjacent turns; and a voltage limiting device disposed across each end of the superconducting wire, and is configured to prevent a voltage excursion across the superconducting wire during quench of the superconducting magnet. The thermally conductive potting material and the superconducting wire provide a path for dissipation of heat.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Distributed Diagnostics and Prognostics

The distributed health management architecture is comprised of a network of smart sensor devices. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California NASA has developed a method that prevents total system failure during emergencies, allowing parts of the system to continue to function, and making overall system recovery faster. A heterogeneous set of system components monitored by a varied suite of sensors and a health monitoring framework has been developed with the power and flexibility to adapt to different diagnostic and prognostic needs. Current state-of-the-art monitoring and health management systems are mostly centralized in nature, where all the processing is reliant on a single processor. This requires information to be sent and processed in one location. With increases in the volume of sensor data as well as the need for associated processing, traditional centralized systems tend to be somewhat ungainly; in particular, when faced with multi-tasking of computationally heavy algorithms. The distributed architecture is more efficient, allows for considerable flexibility in number and location of sensors placed, scales up well, and is more robust to sensor or processor failure.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Lens-Coupled Dielectric Waveguides

Small, lightweight, low-power interconnect solution with improved reliability and reduced packaging complexity. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a low-loss dielectric waveguide that provides a simple, versatile, and flexible transmission medium. Dielectric waveguides — long, solid pieces of dielectric that confine electromagnetic waves — offer high bandwidth and low transmission loss compared to conventional metallic waveguides. Despite these advantages, practical use of these waveguides has been limited because a large fraction of signal power is lost at the state-of-the-art interconnects joining conventional metallic waveguides and dielectric waveguides. JPL’s interconnect solution uses lens coupling to reduce these losses by a factor of 10 or more, yielding a reliable, cost-effective alternative to conventional waveguides.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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