Special Coverage

Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research
Small Robot Has Outstanding Vertical Agility
Smart Optical Material Characterization System and Method
Lightweight, Flexible Thermal Protection System for Fire Protection

CryoFOSS Optical Sensor Offers Next-Level Liquid Measurement

NASA engineer Allen Parker and a team at Armstrong Flight Research Center have developed a fiber-optic-based sensing technology that accurately pinpoints and measures liquid levels. The CryoFOSS, or Cryogenic Fiber Optic Sensing System, uses fiber optic Bragg sensors, located along a single cable, to actively discern between liquid and gas states. The technology can be employed in a variety of applications, from NASA’s rockets to a winery’s storage tanks.

Posted in: Articles, Sensors, Measurements, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators


NASA’s Pursuit of Power

Advances in batteries and propulsion enable innovations in both terrestrial and deep-space power applications. Advances in Capacitor MaterialsElectrochemical capacitors, or supercapacitors, have gained intense interest as an alternative to traditional energy storage devices. Applications for supercapacitors range from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to backup power sources. While the power density of supercapacitors surpasses that of batteries, commercially available batteries have a significantly higher specific energy density.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Power Management, Propulsion, Batteries, Energy storage systems, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Nanomaterials, Spacecraft


Rice Crop Models Stabilize Global Markets and Enable Efficient Irrigation

NASA satellite data gives rice producers and buyers comprehensive crop projections. When global food prices spiked dramatically in late 2007 and into 2008, with the costs of many basic dietary staples doubling or even tripling, protests and riots upset much of the developing world. Following the price spike, world leaders gathered to figure out how to foresee and avert such market instabilities in the future, and a major product of those meetings was the Group on Earth Observations’ Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative, carried out by a partnership of governments and international organizations in the G20 nations. The initiative relies primarily on satellite Earth-imaging data to improve projections of crop production and weather forecasting.

Posted in: Articles, Spinoff, Aerospace, Imaging and visualization, Sustainable development, Weather and climate, Satellites


Advantages of Servo Motor and Direct Drive Technology

For many years, stepper motors have been the most popular type of electric motor designed into instrumentation for a wide variety of reasons. Stepper motors have become increasingly commoditized, and can be sourced easily. In addition, the growing “maker movement” has simultaneously made them more popular and reduced their cost. Unlike servo motors, stepper motors don’t require tuning to optimize their performance. What’s more, scaling and motion commands are typically quick and simple to execute using stepper motors. Servo motors often require a bit more expertise in executing complicated (torque, velocity, or position) loop closures. Finally, micro-stepping allows most modern drive electronics to step or increment a stepper motor to a resolution of 50,800 steps per revolution or higher.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Optimization, Energy conservation, Electric drives, Electric motors


An Inside Look at Electromechanical Power-Off Braking Options

Making the right choice between spring set and permanent magnet brakes can impact safety, durability, maintenance, and performance. Power-off brakes are designed to hold or stop motion in the absence of power. Adding an electrical current releases the brake, freeing the load for motion. Given the safety ramifications of keeping a system locked in place until it is powered up, motion control system designers tend to specify power-off brakes more often than power-on brakes. There are, however, two different failsafe brake technologies: one uses compression springs to hold its load in place, and the other uses permanent magnets. Each has specific strengths and weaknesses, and knowing the difference can impact safety, durability, cost, and performance.

Posted in: Articles, Motion Control, Electronic brake controls, Springs, Magnetic materials


Smart Cameras Get Smarter

How Actionable Data Drives Today’s Imaging Technology Cameras are the eyes of the modern world. The devices equip today’s cars and machines, and real-time imaging capabilities support law enforcement, businesses, and homeowners. Thus far, cameras have been just that: simple cameras, eyes without a brain. Their sole purpose has been, primarily, to output images. Nowadays, however, cameras are “smarter.” In this article, we will review how imaging technology’s ability to intelligently process data will support new insights and applications.

Posted in: Articles, Features, Cameras, Imaging, Photonics, Artificial intelligence, Data acquisition and handling, Imaging and visualization


Delivering Industrial Reliability in Scientific Lasers

Industrial-strength design and production methodologies improve the quality and productivity of scientific lasers. Scientific laser users have long relied on state-of-the-art performance (e.g., higher peak power, shorter pulse duration, wider wavelength tuning) to achieve groundbreaking results. Unfortunately, this high performance has often been emphasized at the expense of ease-of-use and reliability. Recently, however, this paradigm has dramatically changed, and some of the latest scientific lasers — including complex ultrafast amplifiers — now deliver both cutting-edge performance and exceptional reliability. This advance is sometimes referred to as “The Industrial Revolution in Ultrafast Science.”

Posted in: Articles, Features, Imaging, Lasers & Laser Systems, Photonics, Amplifiers, Lasers, Reliability


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