January 2009

Photographing the Inauguration

Over a million people attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington last week. With extremely tight security restricting access, photographer David Bergman found an ingenious way to photograph the event, with the help of imaging technology used on the Mars Rover.

According to an article...

Stretchable Electronics

A design for bendable electronic devices produces parts that can be wrapped around complex shapes, without reducing electronic function. The technology is based on semiconductor nanomaterials that offer high stretchability and large twistability. Potential uses include electronic devices for eye cameras, smart surgical...

Ice-Free Power Lines

Scientists from Dartmouth College and Ice Engineering LLC have invented a way to cheaply and effectively keep ice off power lines. Called a variable resistance cable (VRC) de-icing system, the technology switches the electrical resistance of a standard power line from low to high. The high resistance automatically creates...

Sensing Broken Bridges

Northeastern University was recently awarded a $9 million federal research grant to develop new multi-sensor technology systems for cars and trucks that will allow for real-time assessment of road and bridge infrastructure across the country. Northeastern will lead the five-year VOTERS (Versatile Onboard Traffic Embedded...

When More Is Less

According to research performed at Sandia National Laboratories, the current trend of increasing the speed of supercomputers by increasing the number of processor cores on individual chips may actually worsen performance for many complex applications. A Sandia team simulated key algorithms for deriving knowledge from large data...

Diagnosing in the Developing World

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a prototype malaria test printed on a disposable Mylar card that could easily slip into your wallet and still work when you took it out, even months later. The cards are a critical step in a long-term project funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates...


Fleeing drivers are a common problem for law enforcement. Existing traps, made from elastic, may halt a Hyundai, but they're no match for a Hummer. In addition, officers put themselves at risk of being run down while setting up the traps. Imaginative design and engineering funded by the Small Business Innovation Research Office of the...

Sensor Detects Food-Borne Pathogens

A microscopic biological sensor that detects Salmonella bacteria in lab tests has been developed by an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist and university colleagues. The nanotechnology-based sensor could be adapted to detect other food-borne pathogens as well.

The biosensor was developed by...


Johns Hopkins researchers have invented dust-particle-size devices that can be used to grab and remove living cells from hard-to-reach places without the need for electrical wires, tubes, or batteries. Instead, the devices are actuated by thermal or biochemical signals. The mass-producible microgrippers each measure approximately...

LED Fluorescent Bulbs

University of Florida scientists achieved a new record in the efficiency of blue organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. Because blue is essential to white light, the advance helps pave the way to lighting that is much more efficient than compact fluorescents, but can produce high-quality light similar to standard...

Diagnosing Brain Aging

UCLA scientists have used brain-scan technology, along with patient-specific information on Alzheimer's disease risks, to help diagnose brain aging before symptoms appear. The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET), which allows the revealing of plaques and tangles, the hallmarks of neurodegeneration. The PET...

Molecular Imaging

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Cornell University have developed a new generation of microscopic particles for molecular imaging, constituting one of the first promising nanoparticle platforms that may be readily adapted for tumor targeting and treatment in the clinic. According to the...

Phantom of the Airport

In the comics, the Phantom is a masked crime fighter who protected the innocent from pirates, hijackers and other evildoers. While not as dashing or exciting as its costumed namesake, an electromagnetic phantom - a carbon and polymer mixture that simulates the human body - is being readied by the National Institute of...

NASA Briefs

A chip has been designed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to increase the usefulness of monolithic millimeter-wave integrated circuit (MMIC) components at submillimeter-wave frequencies. The chip incorporates two integrated, radial E-plane probes with an MMIC amplifier in between, thus creating a fully integrated waveguide module....

Senior Safety

Many older adults want to remain active and independent for as long as possible. University of Missouri researchers are using sensors, computers, communication systems, and supportive health care services to monitor the health of older adults who are living at home. The motion sensor networks can detect changes in behavior and...

Portable Ultrasound Device

Cornell University graduate student George Lewis is trying to shrink ultrasound devices to make them practical for any hospital or medical research lab. Lewis has developed a palm-sized, battery-powered ultrasound device powerful enough to stabilize a gunshot wound or deliver drugs to brain cancer patients. Current...

Designing a Better Laser

A Princeton-led team of researchers has discovered a new mechanism to make common electronic materials emit laser beams. The finding could lead to lasers that operate more efficiently and at higher temperatures than existing devices, and lead to applications in environmental monitoring and medical diagnostics.


Application Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Designing Backplanes for Rugged COTS Applications

Although a few industrial backplane architectures are already geared for rugged Mil/Aero applications, some design considerations are often required when designing rugged COTS products.

What is Rugged COTS?

Despite some controversy around the acronym, COTS stands for...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Software Radio PMC Module

Pentek, Inc. (Upper Saddle River, NJ) has introduced the Model 7153 digital down converter (DDC), a four-channel, high-speed digitizer PMC module designed for processing baseband RF or IF signals from a communications receiver. The PMC module employs the ADS5485 A/D Converter from Texas Instruments. Four of these 200...

Products : Electronics & Computers
PC/104 Single Board Computer

Diamond Systems Corporation (Mountain View, CA) offers the Helios PC/104 form factor single board computer that utilizes DMP Vortex - 86SX/DX single chip processors operating at up to 800MHz. Helios is compact, and offers low power consumption of less than 5 watts. Ruggedized and operating fan-less over the extended...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Graphical Programming Software

Agilent Technologies Inc. (Santa Clara, CA) has introduced version 9.0 of the Agilent VEE graphical programming software for test and measurement. Enhancements improve execution time, reduce programming effort, simplify program debugging, and provide direct support of LXI devices and databases. Faster performance...

Products : Electronics & Computers
VPX/CompactPCI Hybrid Backplane

The XTend4010 3U hybrid backplane from Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) (Middleton, WI) supports four VPX slots, three CompactPCI peripheral slots, a Gigabit Ethernet switch slot, and a fabric/bridge slot. The VPX slots offer star fabric topology (A fabric), ring fabric topology (B/C fabrics), and four x4 PCIe...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Toggle Switch

APEM Components, Inc. (Haver - hill, MA) offers an environmentally sealed toggle switch that functions as a rotary or rocker switch. The MT series switch is activated using a slight rocking motion by an operator’s finger or thumb. It is recommended for applications requiring a sealed, ergonomic electrical interface such as radio...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Reconfigurable FPGA AMC Module

that features four small form-factor pluggable-plus (SFP/SFP+) transceivers enabling support of virtually any serial communication standard, including Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet, SONET, CPRI, and OBSAI. The four SFP/SFP+ SerDes channels are connected directly to the on-board Altera® Stratix® II GX FPGA which...

Products : Electronics & Computers
CompactPCI Power Supplies

Murata Power Solutions (Mansfield, MA) has introduced three new PICMG 2.11-compliant CompactPCI high reliability power supplies. The cPCI-A-3U-300C, cPCIA-3U 200C AC/DC power supplies, and the cPCI-D-3U-300C DC/DC power supply are all housed in industry standard 3Ux8HP enclosures and are capable of delivering continuous...

Products : Electronics & Computers

Austin Semiconductor, Inc. (Austin, TX) now offers a 512Mb, 54-Pin TSOPII SDRAM with copper lead frame. The TSOPII features a Lead on Chip (LOC) design, which allows the size of the package to be approximately the chip size. The device is a 512Mb, 32Mb x 16, 3.3V, SDRAM, measuring 22.30mm × 11.76mm, with a height of 1.2mm....

Products : Electronics & Computers
Voltage Controlled Oscillator

The CVCO55CC-4267-4442 VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) from Crystek (Fort Myers, FL) operates from 4267 MHz to 4442 MHz with a control voltage range of 0.1V-16V. The VCO features a typical phase noise of -104 dBc/Hz @ 10KHz offset and has excellent linearity. Output power is typically +5.0 dBm.

The model...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Conductive Epoxy With Applicator

The Duralco 125 handheld epoxy applicator from Cotronics (Brooklyn, NY) dispenses electrically conductive, flexible epoxy for continuous use to 400°F. The epoxy applicator is deal for manufacturing and repairing of flexible circuits, solder replacement, bonding semi-conductors, EMI shielding, thermistors, wire...

Products : Electronics & Computers
1RU Servers

Themis Computer® (Fremont, CA) has introduced high-performance 1RU servers for mission-critical applications. The 1RU Rugged Enterprise Servers (RES) have Intel Xeon 64-bit quad-core processors. The new RES-12DCX2.5™ servers support the Linux®, Sun® Solaris™, and Windows® Operating Systems, to...

Products : Electronics & Computers
RF Communications Toolkit Software

Keithley Instruments, Inc. (Cleveland, OH) has expanded its SignalMeister™ software platform to include RF signal analysis along with RF signal generation. SignalMeister software integrates signal generation and analysis into one package and has the capability of generating and analyzing both single-input...

Articles : Software
CAD Tools: Breaking Barriers

Five years ago, we asked executives at leading CAD companies if, in five years, most design engineers would be using 3D design tools rather than 2D, and all of them said yes. Yet, there are still barriers that design engineers face in migrating from 2D to 3D. Jeff Ray, CEO of SolidWorks, believes one major barrier...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
The Radio Frequency Health Node Wireless Sensor System

The Radio Frequency Health Node (RFHN) wireless sensor system differs from other wireless sensor systems in ways originally intended to enhance utility as an instrumentation system for a spacecraft. The RFHN can also be adapted to use in terrestrial applications in which there are...

Application Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Connectors Provide Signal Reliability for Mars Science Laboratory
Compact PCI (cPCI) Connectors
Hypertronics Corporation
Hudson, MA

Hypertronics’ space-grade Compact PCI (cPCI) connectors were selected by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for use on the Mars Science...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Small CO₂ Sensors Operate at Lower Temperature

Solid-electrolyte-based amperometric sensors for measuring concentrations of CO2 in air are being developed for use in detection of fires, environmental monitoring, and other applications where liquid-based electrochemical cells are problematic. These sensors are small (sizes of the...

Application Briefs : Imaging
Wireless Video Surveillance System Secures Aircraft
AgileMesh/Firetide surveillance system
Dallas, TX

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center now protects several of its highly specialized research aircraft at its satellite facility with a wireless video surveillance system. The...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Effects of Temperature on Polymer/Carbon Chemical Sensors

Experiments were conducted on the effects of temperature, polymer molecular weight, and carbon loading on the electrical resistances of polymer/carbon-black composite films. The experiment were performed in a continuing effort to develop such films as part of the JPL Electronic Nose...

ML7 BGS sensors

Pepperl+Fuchs, Twinsburg, OH, has introduced the ML7 Background Suppression (BGS) photoelectric sensors that feature a 31 x 11 x 23 mm housing, and a sensing range of up to 350 mm. Background suppression optimizes the detection of variously colored targets without the need for reflectors or thru-beam sensing arrangements. Objects...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Tele-Supervised Adaptive Ocean Sensor Fleet

The Tele-supervised Adaptive Ocean Sensor Fleet (TAOSF) is a multi-robot science exploration architecture and system that uses a group of robotic boats (the Ocean-Atmosphere Sensor Integration System, or OASIS) to enable in-situ study of ocean surface and subsurface characteristics and the dynamics of...

Techs for License
Single-Layer Electrochromic Polymer Technology for Automotive and Architectural Glazing Light Control

DuPont’s electrochromatic (EC) technology for controllable light transmission in automotive and architectural safety glazing applications is based on an organic polymer film that can function as a controllable EC interlayer. This technology...

Techs for License : Materials
Tool-Free Engineered Composite Thermoforming Technology

Tooless Engineered Composite (TEC) is a patent-pending process that incorporates the benefits of a thermoformed plastic composite product and the strength of fiberglass reinforcement. This tool-free process utilizes the thermoformed shell as the tool surface in a closed mold process. The...

NASA Tech Needs
Technology for Improved Performance of Release Agents in Die Casting

A materials company supplying specialty technical products to the foundry industry is seeking technology to allow a stepchange in performance of release agents/die lubricants for high-pressure die casting of non-ferrous (e.g. aluminium) components. Areas of interest include...

NASA Tech Needs
In-Store Hair Analysis Tools

A company is seeking tools and devices that can be used instore to quickly classify hair types based on measured hair properties like hair thickness and/or damage level. Technologies include hair diagnostic devices/tools that can evaluate at least one of the following parameters: structure information; physical...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Submillimeter-Wave Amplifier Module With Integrated Waveguide Transitions

To increase the usefulness of monolithic millimeter-wave integrated circuit (MMIC) components at submillimeter-wave frequencies, a chip has been designed that incorporates two integrated, radial E-plane probes with an MMIC amplifier in between, thus creating a fully...

Who's Who
Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr., Director, John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH

As Director of NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr. controls an annual budget of approximately $650 million and manages a labor force comprised of roughly 1,619 civil service employees who are supported by 1754...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Economical Implementation of a Filter Engine in an FPGA

A logic design has been conceived for a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) that would implement a complex system of multiple digital state-space filters. The main innovative aspect of this design lies in providing for reuse of parts of the FPGA hardware to perform different parts of the...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Synthesis of Submillimeter Radiation for Spectroscopy

The frequency-multiplier submillimeter spectrometer (FMSS) is a laboratory apparatus for far-infrared molecular spectroscopy, embodying several advances over prior such apparatuses. The most innovative part of the FMSS is a source of monochromatic submillimeter- wavelength radiation that can...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Generating Ka-Band Signals Using an X-Band Vector Modulator

A breadboard version of a transmitter for radio communication at a carrier frequency of 32 GHz (which is in the Ka band) utilizes a vector modulator operating at a carrier frequency of 8 GHz (the low end of the X band) to generate any of a number of advanced modulations that could...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
100-GHz Phase Switch/Mixer Containing a Slot-Line Transition

A circuit that can function as a phase switch, frequency mixer, or frequency multiplier operates over a broad frequency range in the vicinity of 100 GHz. Among the most notable features of this circuit is a grounded uniplanar transition (in effect, a balun) between a slot line and one...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
SiC Optically Modulated Field-Effect Transistor

An optically modulated field-effect transistor (OFET) based on a silicon carbide junction field-effect transistor (JFET) is under study as, potentially, a prototype of devices that could be useful for detecting ultraviolet light. The SiC OFET is an experimental device that is one of several...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Improved Joining of Metal Components to Composite Structures

Systems requirements for complex spacecraft drive design requirements that lead to structures, components, and/or enclosures of a multi-material and multifunctional design. The varying physical properties of aluminum, tungsten, Invar, or other high-grade aerospace metals when utilized...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Machined Titanium Heat-Pipe Wick Structure

Wick structures fabricated by machining of titanium porous material are essential components of lightweight titanium/ water heat pipes of a type now being developed for operation at temperatures up to 530 K in high-radiation environments. In the fabrication of some prior heat pipes, wicks have been made...

Briefs : Materials
Gadolinia-Doped Ceria Cathodes for Electrolysis of CO2

Gadolinia-doped ceria, or GDC, (Gd0.4Ce0.6O2–δ, where the value of δ in this material varies, depending on the temperature and oxygen concentration in the atmosphere in which it is being used) has shown promise as a cathode material for high- temperature...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Alternative OTEC Scheme for a Submarine Robot

A proposed system for exploiting the ocean thermal gradient to generate power would be based on the thawing-expansion/ freezing-contraction behavior of a wax or perhaps another suitable phase-change material. The power generated by this system would be used to recharge the batteries in a...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Utilizing Ocean Thermal Energy in a Submarine Robot

A proposed system would exploit the ocean thermal gradient for recharging the batteries in a battery-powered unmanned underwater vehicle [UUV (essentially, a small exploratory submarine robot)] of a type that has been deployed in large numbers in research pertaining to global warming. A UUV of...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Fuel-Cell Power Systems Incorporating Mg-Based H₂ Generators

Two hydrogen generators based on reactions involving magnesium and steam have been proposed as means for generating the fuel (hydrogen gas) for such fuel-cell power systems as those to be used in the drive systems of advanced motor vehicles. The hydrogen generators would make it...

Briefs : Medical
Sensitive, Rapid Detection of Bacterial Spores

A method of sensitive detection of bacterial spores within delays of no more than a few hours has been developed to provide an alternative to a prior three-day NASA standard culture-based assay. A capability for relatively rapid detection of bacterial spores would be beneficial for many endeavors, a...

Briefs : Medical
Adenosine Monophosphate-Based Detection of Bacterial Spores

A method of rapid detection of bacterial spores is based on the discovery that a heat shock consisting of exposure to a temperature of 100 °C for 10 minutes causes the complete release of adenosine monophosphate (AMP) from the spores. This method could be an alternative to the method...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
CGH Figure Testing of Aspherical Mirrors in Cold Vacuums

An established method of room-temperature interferometric null testing of mirrors having simple shapes (e.g., flat, spherical, or spheroidal) has been augmented to enable measurement of errors in the surface figures of off-axis, non-axisymmetric, aspherical mirrors when the mirrors are...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Silicon Microleaks for Inlets of Mass Spectrometers

Microleaks for inlets of mass spectrometers used to analyze atmospheric gases can be fabricated in silicon wafers by means of photolithography, etching, and other techniques that are commonly used in the manufacture of integrated circuits and microelectro-mechanical systems. The microleaks...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Series-Coupled Pairs of Silica Microresonators

Series-coupled pairs of whispering-gallery-mode optical microresonators have been demonstrated as prototypes of stable, narrow-band-pass photonic filters. Characteristics that are generally considered desirable in a photonic or other narrow-band-pass filter include response as nearly flat as...

Briefs : Information Technology
High-Performance Algorithm for Solving the Diagnosis Problem

An improved method of model-based diagnosis of a complex engineering system is embodied in an algorithm that involves considerably less computation than do prior such algorithms. This method and algorithm are based largely on developments reported in several NASA Tech Briefs articles:...

Briefs : Information Technology
Efficient Method for Optimizing Placement of Sensors

A computationally efficient method has been developed to enable optimization of the placement of sensors for the purpose of diagnosis of a complex engineering system (e.g., an aircraft or spacecraft). The method can be used both in (1) designing a sensor system in which the number and...

Briefs : Information Technology
Truncation Depth Rule-of-Thumb for Convolutional Codes

In this innovation, it is shown that a commonly used rule of thumb (that the truncation depth of a convolutional code should be five times the memory length, m, of the code) is accurate only for rate 1/2 codes. In fact, the truncation depth should be 2.5 m/(1 – r), where r is the code...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Metrology System for a Large, Somewhat Flexible Telescope

A proposed metrology system would be incorporated into a proposed telescope that would include focusing optics on a rigid bench connected via a deployable mast to another rigid bench holding a focal-plane array of photon counting photodetectors. Deformations of the deployable mast would...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Formation Flying of Components of a Large Space Telescope

A conceptual space telescope having an aperture tens of meters wide and a focal length of hundreds of meters would be implemented as a group of six separate optical modules flying in formation: a primary-membrane-mirror module, a relay-mirror module, a focal-plane-assembly module...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Laser Metrology Heterodyne Phase-Locked Loop

A method reduces sensitivity to noise in a signal from a laser heterodyne interferometer. The phase-locked loop (PLL) removes glitches that occur in a zero-crossing detector's output [that can happen if the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the heterodyne signal is low] by the use of an internal...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Precise Stabilization of the Optical Frequency of WGMRs

Crystalline whispering gallery mode resonators (CWGMRs) made of crystals with axial symmetry have ordinary and extraordinary families of optical modes. These modes have substantially different thermo-refractive constants. This results in a very sharp dependence of differential detuning of...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Spatial Modulation Improves Performance in CTIS

Suitably formulated spatial modulation of a scene imaged by a computed-tomography imaging spectrometer (CTIS) has been found to be useful as a means of improving the imaging performance of the CTIS. As used here, “spatial modulation” signifies the imposition of additional, artificial structure...

Interview with Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr., Director, John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH

As Director of NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr. controls an annual budget of approximately $650 million and manages a labor force comprised of roughly 1,619 civil service employees who are supported...

Articles : Electronics & Computers
Deciphering the New SUMIT™ Specification

The new SUMIT specification is managed by the Small Form Factor Special Interest Group (SFF-SIG). SFF-SIG is a newly formed, non-profit industry group that develops, promotes, and supports small form factor circuit board specifications and related technologies. The group embraces the latest...

Articles : Electronics & Computers
Applying Cognitive Memory to Pattern Recognition

Whether you are involved in robotics or other domains, pattern recognition is essential to progress. A new device, called the CogniMem chip, offers a hardware solution to this problem. CogniMem can be considered a true Artificial Intelligence device because it has been designed specifically for...

Articles : Electronics & Computers
Direct Spray Liquid Cooling Systems

For decades military platforms have included electronics for avionics, vehicle controls, radios, radar, sonar and fire control. From a computational standpoint most of these systems could be accomplished with relatively low power devices. There have always been higher performance electronics for applications...

Articles : Photonics/Optics
Micromachining with Lasers

Laser micromachining involves using light to remove material. Lasers can also be used in many other applications such as welding, marking, additive manufacturing and surface alteration, but these fall outside the definition. As a general rule, laser micromachining involves working on substrates that are less than 1 mm...

Application Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Measuring LED and Solid State Lighting Performance

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) and solid state lighting (SSL) products that incorporate LEDs pose many measurement challenges compared with other lighting elements, such as traditional tungsten and fluorescent. Advanced optical radiation measurement equipment and new techniques are often required...

Photonics West Exhibitor Preview

View these and other new products on display by exhibitors at Photonics West, January 27-29, in San Jose, CA. Visit Photonics Tech Briefs at Booth 832.Visit http://spie.org/x23685.xml for more information.


On-Demand Webinars: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Heavy-Duty Engine Design for a Transitioning Market

Upcoming Webinars: Photonics/Optics

High-Powered Directed Energy Laser Projects: Destroy the Target,...

Upcoming Webinars: Photonics/Optics

Optical Coating Design

Upcoming Webinars: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Rapid Decompression and Sealed Containers: Why Choose Magnet...

Upcoming Webinars: Motion Control

Advantages of Smart Servo Steppers vs. Smart Brushless Servos

Upcoming Webinars: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Large Cable, Large Problems: Considerations for Innovation