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Propulsion Technology Could Combat Flight Pollution

A breakthrough propulsion technology to provide greener air transport could be developed after the underlying engineering was declared a success. Six universities and two research organizations from across the EU demonstrated the scientific feasibility of a novel propulsion method that overcomes the main limitations of traditional systems related to jet deflection exhausts.

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Mini Models Fire Up to Test Space Launch System

NASA is working with CUBRC Inc. of Buffalo, NY to design, build, and test 2% scale models of the Space Launch System (SLS) propulsion system. Models include two five-segment solid rocket boosters and four core stage RS-25 engines, and a 2% scale model of the entire rocket. The models are fired for short durations of about 50-150 milliseconds per test.

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UAVs to Play Critical Role in Precision Agriculture

Researchers are investigating how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used commercially in agriculture. Their size, cost and capabilities make UAVs useful for a wide range of jobs. Mississippi State University researchers are already using these vehicles, and many others are examining their potential applications, including flying a camera on a drone to get instant aerial views of research fields. A flyover could identify problem spots in extremely large fields, and then researchers, crop consultants, or farmers could go to the identified areas and examine them carefully to make proper diagnoses. The information gathered by soil-moisture sensors could be compared to the information that could be gathered by drones. Technology already exists to allow producers to make very specific chemical applications to their fields with farm equipment. UAVs can help them target these applications even more precisely. Source:

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Radio Chip Reduces Power Leakage

To realize the "Internet of things” — the idea that all parts of the human environment, from kitchen appliances to industrial equipment, could be equipped with sensors and processors that exchange data — transmitters must be energy-efficient enough to last for months. A group researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new transmitter design that reduces off-state leakage 100-fold. The design provides adequate power for Bluetooth transmission, or for the longer-range 802.15.4 wireless-communication protocol. While semiconductors are not naturally very good conductors, neither are they perfect insulators. Even when no charge is applied to the gate, some current still leaks across the transistor. The leakage is reduced by applying a negative charge to the gate when the transmitter is idle. The charge drives electrons away from the electrical leads, making the semiconductor a much better insulator. In tests conducted on a prototype chip fabricated through the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s research program, the MIT researchers found that their circuit spent only 20 picowatts of power to save 10,000 picowatts in leakage. To generate the negative charge efficiently, the MIT researchers use a circuit known as a charge pump, which is a small network of capacitors — electronic components that can store charge — and switches. When the charge pump is exposed to the voltage that drives the chip, charge builds up in one of the capacitors. Throwing one of the switches connects the positive end of the capacitor to the ground, causing a current to flow out the other end. Source Also: Read other Electronics tech briefs.    

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Paper-Like Material Boosts Electric Vehicle Batteries

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. The spongelike silicon nanofibers are 100 times thinner than human hair. The technology could be used in batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics.The nanofibers were produced using a technique known as electrospinning, whereby 20,000 to 40,000 volts are applied between a rotating drum and a nozzle, which emits a solution composed mainly of tetraethyl orthosilicate. The material is then exposed to magnesium vapor to produce the sponge-like silicon fiber structure.The researchers’ future work involves implementing the silicon nanofibers into a pouch cell format lithium-ion battery, which is a larger scale battery format that can be used in EVs and portable electronics.The technology has the potential to boost by several times the amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery.SourceAlso: Learn about NASA's Power Generation & Storage technologies.

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Self-Powered Intelligent Keyboard Could Provide Additional Security

By analyzing such parameters as the force applied by key presses and the time interval between them, a new self-powered, non-mechanical, intelligent keyboard could provide a stronger layer of security for computer users. The self-powered device generates electricity when a user’s fingertips contact the multi-layer plastic materials that make up the device.

Posted in: News, Board-Level Electronics, Computers, Electronic Components, Electronics, Power Management, Energy Harvesting

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Underwater Robot Monitors Marine Habitats

A new underwater robot designed by University of Washington researchers will monitor the effects of tidal and wave energy on marine habitats.The instrument package has a range of technologies: a stereo camera to collect photos and video, a sonar system, hydrophones to hear marine mammal activity, sensors to gauge water quality and speed, a click detector to listen for whales, dolphins and porpoises, and a device to detect fish tags. A fiber optic cable connection back to shore allows for real-time monitoring and control, and the device will be powered by a copper wire.The instruments fit inside a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, that can maneuver underwater and drop off the instrumentation package at a docking station integrated onto a turbine or other existing subsea infrastructure. The tool attaches to most types of underwater infrastructure, ranging from tidal turbines to offshore oil and gas rigs.Researchers outfitted the underwater surveying machine with five extra thrusters on an external frame to give it more power to move against strong currents. Actuators on the vehicle latch the monitoring instruments onto a subsea docking station, and then the robot can disengage, leaving the instruments in place, and travel back to the water’s surface.The team tested the vehicle, dubbed the"Millennium Falcon," and the instruments it transports, called the Adaptable Monitoring Package, underwater for the first time in January. UW will continue testing in Puget Sound under more challenging conditions starting this month.SourceAlso: Learn about Biologically Inspired Robots.

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