Special Coverage

Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines

New Materials Could Turn Water into Solar Fuel

A process speeds the discovery of commercially viable solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Solar fuels are created using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers are exploring a range of target fuels, from hydrogen gas to liquid hydrocarbons, but producing any of these fuels involves splitting water.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Modified Surface Having Low Adhesion Properties to Mitigate Insect Residue Adhesion

Surface roughness is not affected by the process.

NASA Langley Research Center, in collaboration with ATK Space Systems, has developed a method to reduce insect adhesion on metallic substrates, polymeric materials, engineering plastics, and other surfaces. The method topographically modifies a surface using laser ablation patterning followed by chemical modification of the surface. This innovation was originally developed to enhance aircraft laminar flow by preventing insect residue buildup, but the method provides a permanent solution for any application requiring insect adhesion mitigation as well as adhesion prevention of other typical environmental contaminants.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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CornerStone Knowledge Acquisition and Synthesis Framework

In general, and especially in the “big data” era, there is often a failure to collect sufficient data about the data (metadata). This lack of metadata drastically reduces the potential use of the data, and the attempt to rectify this situation after the fact is often difficult, if not impossible. The necessary metadata must first be located, and then organized and associated with the data. Often those who know about the metadata are no longer available. The proposed alternative is to prepare the data for long-term preservation based on currently accepted best-practices for long-term digital archives. This means that both the data and the metadata are simultaneously collected and prepared for the archive. This methodology provides the best chance that the necessary metadata will be available for future analysis, and ensures use of the data being collected and preserved.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Middle-Out Graph Analytics

This software visually lays out trends and patterns for ease of analysis, and can be used on desktop or handheld devices.

Graph analytics is a way of facilitating guided graph exploration through visual and interactive means. Unlike many graph visualization research efforts that focus predominantly on layout algorithms and rendering techniques, graph analytics research strives to provide an engaging interactive journey that bridges the gap from data to information to knowledge. Graph visualization still plays an important role in building this analytical journey, as do database querying, graph mining, interactive interrogation, human judgment, and senses.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Microfabricated Particles as MRI Contrast Agents

Potential applications exist in MRIs, drug development, diagnostics, and microfluidics.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has become an invaluable, widely used medical diagnostic and research tool, but despite numerous chemically synthesized image-enhancing agents, MRI still lacks the sensitivity and the multiplexing capabilities of optical imaging that benefit from colored fluorophores — multi-spectral quantum dots for multi-functional encoding and biomolecular/cellular labeling.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Self-Protected, Low-Temperature Nanosolder

The nanosolder is inexpensive and easy to use in an assembly process.

Nanosolders allow for increased capabilities in the formation of soldered interconnections for heat-sensitive electronic packages. The desired characteristic of nanosolder is to have a low process temperature that does not damage base materials or components, while also having a high service temperature that allows the product to operate in harsh environments.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Resistive Heating-Assisted Infiltration and Cure (RHAIC) for Polymer/Carbon Nanotube Structural Composites

This process can be used for airframe components, lightweight construction structures, thermal management, and electromagnetic shielding for cars.

NASA’s Langley Research Center scientists have developed a process for fabricating carbon nanotube (CNT) structural nanocomposites that brings CNT-based composites closer to realizing their potential for structural applications. Conventional methods fail to properly wet CNTs within the epoxy matrix due to high resin viscosity, resulting in poor infiltration and reduced load transfer between the CNTs and matrix. The NASA process — resistive heating-assisted epoxy infiltration (RHAEI) — uses the CNTs’ electrical resistance to generate heat, which reduces epoxy resin viscosity for greater CNT wetting and adhesion. Mechanical properties are significantly improved compared to conventional methods. NASA’s process has been demonstrated to offer 50% improvement in strength and elastic modulus, with mechanical properties competitive with structural carbon fiber composites.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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3D Chip Combines Computing and Data Storage

Memory cells and carbon nanotubes are built vertically over one another, making a 3D computer architecture with interleaving layers of logic and memory.

Fields ranging from autonomous driving to personalized medicine are generating huge amounts of data. But just as the flood of data is reaching massive proportions, the ability of computer chips to process it into useful information is stalling.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Rotary Piston Engine

There are many applications where a high power-to-weight engine is either necessary or helpful. Uses for this type of engine range from handheld power equipment, to motorcycles and aircraft — uses multiply when fuel efficiency, compactness, and versatility are added. Currently, there are few viable options available to fulfill these applications, and those that are available are very inefficient when high power is no longer desired. When the application warrants it, the engine type of choice has been the turbine engine.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion
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Green Liquid Monopropellant Thruster for In-Space Propulsion

Hydrazine has been the standard baseline liquid monopropellant for space propulsion over many decades since replacing hydrogen peroxide. Hydrazine was preferred over peroxide due to its easier storability and higher performance. Like peroxide, hydrazine can be readily decomposed by passing it over a catalyst. For these advantages, hydrazine has a significant drawback: it is toxic (carcinogen and mutagen), and its handling and refurbishment requires special procedures. Accidental spill is a concern, and strict and expensive mitigation procedures are required. In recent years, a need has arisen to find green or reduced toxicity hydrazine substitutes with equal or greater propulsive performance than hydrazine.

Posted in: Briefs, Propulsion
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