Tech Briefs

Autonomous Combustion-Powered Hopping Robot

Applications include military assistance, law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland security.

Robots are conventionally made mobile by rolling on wheels; however, wheeled robots have limited ability to traverse large obstacles. Obstacles much taller than the robot's wheels can prevent passage, and obstacles with significant horizontal gaps, such as trenches, can also prevent passage. One solution is to use bigger wheels and a bigger wheelbase. Both of these require more drive power, so the entire robot must be larger. This can be prohibitive in applications with cost, size, space, or transportation constraints that limit the size of robot that can be used.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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Fabrication of BSA 14-23 Superhydrophobic Sponges as Efficient Oil and Organic Liquid Absorbents

This approach is fast, simple, inexpensive, widely applicable, and scalable.

Oil spills have become an environmental problem due to the growth of offshore oil exploration, production, and transportation. There are several methods that have been used to clean up oil spills such as chemical dispersants, water skimming, and using absorbent materials. Although skimming is the most common method for cleaning large spills, this method is time-consuming, expensive, and poorly separates oil and water. Chemical dispersants can be used to break up oil slicks into droplets that can be easily dissipated in water, but the mixture of oil and dispersants can be toxic and damage marine ecosystems. Thus, the use of oil sorbents can be an effective method to ease oil collection, and sorbents have a high capacity for removing oil from a targeted site.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping
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Suspended Platform Improves Efficiency in Large-Scale Manufacturing

The platform enables access to large, external surfaces with minimum footprint and maximum system rigidity.

The Flying Carpet is a platform of any shape, size, or material that is suspended by a four-point cable system. The platform can serve as a movable scaffolding and worker positioning system that enables workers to maneuver themselves, parts, and tools throughout a large work volume for tasks such as ship repair and aircraft paint removal with up to 20 times improved efficiency over hand-built scaffolding. The Flying Carpet is a cable-supported platform that uses single-axis jog-, velocity-, and force-control modes.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping
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Combination Structural Support and Thermal Protection System

Applications include engine firewalls in general aviation aircraft, turbine engines, automobiles, or other ground vehicles; and in building construction for fire protection.

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a system that provides both structural support and protection attributes in a failsafe manner. This innovation incorporates the use of a pre-ceramic polymer (PCP) composite structure that when overheated or exposed to fire or plasma will convert to a ceramic matrix composite (CMC), retaining structural integrity and still functioning effectively. When damage causes the thermal protection system (TPS) to fail, the underlying PCP structure converts to a CMC material that has high-temperature structural properties, will not catch fire or melt, and continues to perform its structural function.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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BiBlade Sampling Chain

This tool enables multiple sampling attempts per sample.

The BiBlade sampler has been developed for potentially acquiring samples from the surface of a planetary body. The tool could conceivably be used in both in situ and notional sample return missions to planetary bodies including asteroids, comets, and moons. While the tool was designed for planetary sampling missions, it could have terrestrial applications as well.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Recovering Metals from Electronic Waste

This process dissolves the major metals found in electronics, including materials that have been shredded, magnetically separated, or milled to a particle size less than one millimeter.

End-of-life electronic devices such as smartphones, computers, televisions, and other electronics contain significant amounts of valuable metals including base metals (zinc, tin, lead, nickel, and copper), precious metals (silver, gold, and palladium), and rare earth magnets (neodymium, yttrium, samarium). Some electronic scrap is currently landfilled or incinerated, and there is a need to develop more effective processes to capture these valuable metals along with keeping them out of the environment.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Composite Insulated Conductor

These extreme fire-resistant insulation systems show promise for use in high-voltage, high-power systems.

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a new class of polyimide composite electrical insulation materials for wires, cable, and bus pipe. These new insulation materials have been shown to withstand a 12-hour gas flame test while maintaining structural and electrical circuit integrities. These extreme fire-resistant insulation systems show promise for use in high-voltage, high-power systems. They can improve survivability and continuity of the electrical power supply. Besides fire resistance, these materials also provide weight and space savings because of their lightweight nature and exceptionally high-performance capability. NASA developed the wire insulation for exploration and space operations; however, the technology also has applicability to other high-voltage, high-power systems for maritime, high-rise building construction, and other industries.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Solder Bond Packaging for High-Voltage Pulsed Power Devices

This invention is a superior switching component for pulsed power applications.

The huge demand for switching components exceeding silicon's (Si) current density limitation of 200 A/cm2 has pushed the enhancement of alternative semiconductor materials such as silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride, and diamond. The enhanced material properties of SiC, such as high thermal conductivity, large critical field, wide bandgap, large elastic modulus, and high saturation velocity, make it a viable candidate for pulsed power systems. Using SiC would increase both current and power densities, improve dI/dt and dV/dt capabilities, reduce recovery time, and minimize switching losses in various power electronic systems. Furthermore, a significant reduction in the volume and weight of pulsed power systems can be realized by implementing SiC SGTOs, reducing the thermal management requirements of the pulsed power system.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Omnidirectional Mobile Robot with Two Moving Parts

A spherical induction motor (SIM) eliminates the robot's mechanical drive system.

SIMbot is an updated version of the ballbot, an elegantly simple robot whose tall, thin body moves on top of a sphere slightly smaller than a bowling ball. SIMbot features a motor with just one moving part: the ball. The other active moving part of the robot is the body itself.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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Interactive Robot Control System and Method of Use

Robonaut 2 can enter hazardous areas or tackle difficult terrain without endangering its human operator.

Researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple systems and sub-components: vision systems, image-recognition systems, sensors, control algorithms, and much more. R2's nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries. One of the most promising applications for the R2 technologies is in the area of hazardous environments. R2 has the capability to work in remote locations separate from the human controller. R2 can function autonomously, or it can be controlled by direct teleoperations.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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