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

Ultrasonic Intake Airflow Meter for Testbeds

The airflow meter measures extremely dynamic phenomena of combustion engines without being affected by ambient influences or sensor contamination.

An ultrasonic intake airflow meter for engine testbed applications was developed. An automotive intake airflow meter must fulfill a series of requirements differentiating it from typical ultrasonic flow meters. First, the data sampling rate of the device must be as high as possible to be able to measure dynamic phenomena of the combustion engine. It is therefore necessary to use broadband ultrasonic transducers capable of sending short signals without post-pulse oscillations. The state-of-the-art piezoelectric transducers cannot fulfill these requirements. For this reason, the FLOWSONIX

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Test & Measurement, Combustion and combustion processes, Engines, Test procedures

Convex Hull-Based Plume and Anomaly Detection

A number of deep space missions have imaged plumes at Io, Enceladus, and other smaller bodies. These phenomena provide valuable information regarding these bodies. To date, this imagery has been captured fortuitously. The ability to utilize onboard processing to conduct campaigns capturing large numbers of images and to detect when a plume event is occurring would open up new mission paradigms. Extended temporal campaigns could provide comprehensive detail on these events’ frequency and character.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Software, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Spacecraft

Integrity Sensing With Smart Polymers and Rubber Components on Vehicles

This technology has the potential to improve the quality and provide stability monitoring of materials and connections within seals, tires, and hoses.

This research provides a capacitance-based method for monitoring the integrity of tires and other polymeric products during manufacturing and throughout the useful product life. Tires are complex composite structures composed of layers of formulated cross-linked rubber, textiles, and steel reinforcement layers. Tire production requires precise manufacturing through chemical and mechanical methods to achieve secure attachment of all layers. Tires are subjected to a variety of harsh environments, experience heavy loads, intense wear, heat, and in many cases, lack of maintenance. These conditions make tires extremely susceptible to damage.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Sensors, Tires and traction, Elastomers, Polymers, Smart materials, Wear, Test procedures

Blade Tip Clearance Sensors for Engine Health Monitoring

These sensors are rugged enough to monitor gas turbine engine blades throughout the life of the engine.

Blade health monitoring continues to gain interest as a means of assessing the health of turbine airfoils in aerospace and ground-based gas turbine engines in fleet operation. Many types of blade sensors are used throughout the design validation process of new engines that would theoretically provide information for blade health monitoring. However, most of these sensors are either too difficult to use or do not have sufficient survivability to monitor blades throughout the operational life of the engine.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Diagnostics, Gas turbines

Multi-Source Autonomous Response for Targeting and Monitoring of Volcanic Activity

This concept has great relevance to Earth science and future planetary exploration.

The study of volcanoes is important for both purely scientific and human survival reasons. From a scientific standpoint, volcanic gas and ash emissions contribute significantly to the terrestrial atmosphere. Ash depositions and lava flows can also greatly affect local environments. From a human survival standpoint, many people live within the reach of active volcanoes, and therefore can be endangered by both atmospheric (ash, debris) toxicity and lava flow.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Environmental testing, Particulate matter (PM), Satellites, Unmanned aerial vehicles

Deployable Fresnel Rings

This antenna technology can be used by first-responders and soldiers requiring cellular range extension or satellite links to handheld devices.

Deployable Fresnel rings (DFRs) significantly enhance the realizable gain of an antenna. This innovation is intended to be used in combination with another antenna element, as the DFR itself acts as a focusing or microwave lens element for a primary antenna. This method is completely passive, and is also completely wireless in that it requires neither a cable, nor a connector from the antenna port of the primary antenna to the DFR.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Antennas, Antennas

Array Design Considerations for the Solar Probe Plus

Power supplied via solar array wings will result in lower thermal resistance and lower operating temperatures for the spacecraft.

The NASA Solar Probe Plus (SPP) mission will fly into the Sun’s corona, reaching as close as 9.86 solar radii from the center of the Sun. Power generation for the spacecraft will be provided by two solar array wings, which are being designed and built by JHU-APL and Emcore. SPP will get closer to the Sun than any previous mission, meaning that the solar arrays will need to operate reliably under unusually high irradiances and temperatures, a situation that introduces interesting challenges for the array design.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Design processes, Solar energy, Spacecraft

Transition-Edge Hot-Electron Microbolometers for Millimeter and Submillimeter Astrophysics

New instruments promise to expand the investigation of cosmic microwave background radiation and its polarization to get better insight into the evolution of the universe.

The millimeter and the submillimeter wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum hold a wealth of information about the evolution of the universe. In particular, cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation and its polarization carry the oldest information in the universe, and provide the best test of the inflationary paradigm available to astronomy today. Detecting gravity waves through their imprint on the CMB polarization would have extraordinary repercussions for cosmology and physics.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences, Antennas, Sensors and actuators, Antennas, Sensors and actuators, Semiconductors

V-Assembly Dual-Head Efficiency Resonator (VADER) Laser Transmitter

The combined features form a unit with new performance levels.

A complete demonstration breadboard unit for advanced development as a high-TRL (technology readiness level) system has been constructed and characterized. Infusion of several new component technologies, such as ceramic:YAG material and high-power laser diode arrays (LDAs), combined with a proprietary minimal part count architecture, has resulted in dramatic performance gains. The proprietary dual-head configuration employs a pair of side-pumped laser slabs, optically in series in the cavity, but at opposing polarization orientations. This promises tremendous power range scalability, simplified and symmetrical thermal lens control, unprecedented stored energy extraction efficiency, and inherent diffraction limited TEM00 beam quality.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Physical Sciences, Architecture, Telecommunications, Architecture, Telecommunications

Twin Head Efficient Oscillator Development for the ACE Multi- Beam Lidar and 3D-Winds

This technology is applicable to atmospheric lidar, Doppler wind measurements, interplanetary laser communications, and materials processing.

The Twin Head Efficient Oscillator (THEO) concept uses a pair of smaller, identical laser pump modules, oriented to remove asymmetrical thermo-optical effects typical in single-slab lasers such as HOMER (High Output Maximum Efficiency Resonator), MLA (Mercury Laser Altimeter), LOLA Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, and GLAS (Geoscience Laser Altimeter), while simultaneously increasing efficiency and lifetime. This creates 100+ mJ pulses in an oscillator-only design, with reduced risk of optical damage, record efficiency, high stability, long life, and high TEM00 beam quality typical of much smaller rod-based cavities. Near-field-beam quality is critical to efficient second harmonic generation (SHG 532 nm), which is typically poor in slab-based Nd:YAG lasers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Photonics, Physical Sciences, Altimeters, Altimeters, Spacecraft

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