Tech Briefs

Data-Analysis System for Entry, Descent, and Landing

A report describes the Entry Descent Landing Data Analysis (EDA), which is a system of signal-processing software and computer hardware for acquiring status data conveyed by multiple-frequency-shiftkeying tone signals transmitted by a spacecraft during descent to the surface of a remote planet. The design of the EDA meets the challenge of processing weak, fluctuating signals that are Doppler-shifted by amounts that are only partly predictable. The software supports both realtime and post processing. The software performs fast-Fourier-transform integration, parallel frequency tracking with prediction, and mapping of detected tones to specific events. The use of backtrack and refinement parallel-processing threads helps to minimize data gaps. The design affords flexibility to enable division of a descent track into segments, within each of which the EDA is configured optimally for processing in the face of signal conditions and uncertainties. A dynamic-lockstate feature enables the detection of signals using minimum required computing power — less when signals are steadily detected, more when signals fluctuate. At present, the hardware comprises eight dual-processor personal-computer modules and a server. The hardware is modular, making it possible to increase computing power by adding computers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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Hybrid Power Management

Ultracapacitors offer numerous advantages over rechargeable batteries. An engineering discipline denoted as hybrid power management (HPM) has emerged from continuing efforts to increase energy efficiency and reliability of hybrid power systems. HPM is oriented toward integration of diverse electric energy-generating, energy-storing, and energy-consuming devices in optimal configurations for both terrestrial and outer-space applications. The basic concepts of HPM are potentially applicable at power levels ranging from nanowatts to megawatts. Potential applications include terrestrial power-generation, terrestrial transportation, biotechnology, and outerspace power systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers

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Hybrid UV Imager Containing Face-Up AlGaN/GaN Photodiodes

An alternative approach offers potential advantages over the flip-chip approach. A proposed hybrid ultraviolet (UV) image sensor would comprise a planar membrane array of face-up AlGaN/GaN photodiodes integrated with a complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) readout-circuit chip. Each pixel in the hybrid image sensor would contain a UV photodiode on the AlGaN/GaN membrane, metal oxide/semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) readout circuitry on the CMOS chip underneath the photodiode, and a metal via connection between the photodiode and the readout circuitry (see figure). The proposed sensor design would offer all the advantages of comparable prior CMOS active-pixel sensors and AlGaN UV detectors while overcoming some of the detector limitations of prior (AlGaN/sapphire)/CMOS hybrid image sensors that have been designed and fabricated according to the methodology of flip-chip integration.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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Magnetometer Based on Optoelectronic Microwave Oscillator

This miniature instrument could also function as an atomic clock. A proposed instrument, intended mainly for use as a magnetometer, would include an optoelectronic oscillator (OEO) stabilized by an atomic cell that could play the role of a magnetically tunable microwave filter. The microwave frequency would vary with the magnetic field in the cell, thereby providing an indication of the magnetic field. The proposed magnetometer would offer a combination of high accuracy and high sensitivity, characterized by flux densities of less than a picotesla. In comparison with prior magnetometers, the proposed magnetometer could, in principle, be constructed as a compact, lightweight instrument: It could fit into a package of about 10 by 10 by 10 cm and would have a mass <0.5 kg.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers

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Multiple Embedded Processors for Fault-Tolerant Computing

Outputs of processors would be compared to detect and correct bit errors.A fault-tolerant computer architecture has been conceived in an effort to reduce vulnerability to single-event upsets (spurious bit flips caused by impingement of energetic ionizing particles or photons). As in some prior fault-tolerant architectures, the redundancy needed for fault tolerance is obtained by use of multiple processors in one computer. Unlike prior architectures, the multiple processors are embedded in a single field-programmable gate array (FPGA). What makes this new approach practical is the recent commercial availability of FPGAs that are capable of having multiple embedded processors.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Semiconductors & ICs

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Apparatus for Precise Indium-Bump Bonding of Microchips

Bonding force is distributed more nearly evenly and controlled more precisely. An improved apparatus has been designed and built for use in precise positioning and pressing of a microchip onto a substrate (which could, optionally, be another microchip) for the purpose of indium-bump bonding. The apparatus (see figure) includes the following:  

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Semiconductors & ICs

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Multichannel Brain-Signal-Amplifying and Digitizing System

An apparatus has been developed for use in acquiring multichannel electroencephalographic (EEG) data from a human subject. EEG apparatuses with many channels in use heretofore have been too heavy and bulky to be worn, and have been limited in dynamic range to no more than 18 bits. The present apparatus is small and light enough to be worn by the subject. It is capable of amplifying EEG signals and digitizing them to 22 bits in as many as 150 channels. The apparatus is controlled by software and is plugged into the USB port of a personal computer. This apparatus makes it possible, for the first time, to obtain high-resolution functional EEG images of a thinking brain in a real-life, ambulatory setting outside a research laboratory or hospital.

Posted in: Briefs, Bio-Medical, Medical

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