December 2013

Articles : Aerospace
Speed2Design: A Chance of a Lifetime

I recently had the chance to spend a day at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston with the ten winners of the Speed2Design contest sponsored by Littelfuse, a Chicago-based circuit protection company. The prize was a behind-the-scenes tour of the center, including technical conversations with the engineers...

New Process Speeds Manufacture of JSF Cockpit Canopies

A faster, more precise way to create cockpit enclosures may end up saving the F-35 Lightning II program a significant amount in manufacturing costs. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has invested in an automated thermoforming process that could cut costs by as much as $125 million over the...

Nanotube Array Technology Could Improve Spacecraft Propulsion

A pair of carbon nanotube arrays will be flying in space by the end of the year to test technology that could provide more efficient micro-propulsion for future generations of spacecraft. Part of a Cube Satellite (CubeSat) developed by the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), the...

NASA Pilots Take a Load Off With Tablets

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's pilots are saving trees, money, and their backs by joining the tablet computer revolution in aviation. Tablet computers have replaced pilots' heavy flight bags, some of which weighed about 40 pounds filled with hard copies of aviation documents. This transition has...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Mid-Range Oscilloscope

Tektronix, Inc. (Beaverton, OR) has introduced the MSO/DPO5000B Series oscilloscope offering bandwidth up to 2 GHz with 10 GS/s sample rate and 50M standard record length. In addition, the MSO/DPO5000B Series offers up to 250 M record length, 250,000 waveform per second capture rate, and >11 bits resolution with HiRes...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Universal Emulation Configurator

The Universal Emulation Configurator (UEC) from PLS Programmierbare Logik & Systeme (Lauta, Germany) is now available for the Freescale MPC57xx and SPC57x from STMicroelectronics. The MPC57xx and SPC57x emulation devices are pin-compatible to their respective production chips, but include additional...

Products : Electronics & Computers
USB-TO-SPI Bridge Chip

Silicon Labs (Austin, TX) has introduced the new CP2130 USB-to-SPI bridge controller that offers a turnkey solution for bridging a universal serial bus (USB) host and a serial peripheral interface (SPI) bus with driver support for Windows(R), OS X and Linux operating systems. The CP2130 enables developers to add USB...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Haptics-Enabled Microcontrollers

Texas Instruments (TI) (Dallas, TX) has announced a new flexible haptics and capacitive touch combo solution on one chip. The new MSP430TCH5E haptics- enabled microcontrollers allow users to add vibrational feedback to all capacitive touch buttons, sliders and wheels on mobile computing and gaming devices, smart...

Chaotic Physics in Ferroelectrics Could Lead to Memcomputing

Unexpected behavior in ferroelectric materials explored by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory supports a new approach to information storage and processing. Ferroelectric materials are known for their ability to spontaneously switch polarization...

Researchers Design Seamless Integrated Circuits Etched on Graphene

Researchers in electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara have introduced and modeled an integrated circuit design scheme in which transistors and interconnects are monolithically patterned seamlessly on a sheet of graphene, a 2-dimensional plane of carbon atoms. The...

Question of the Week
Will Amazon's Drone Delivery Service Really Fly?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced that Amazon's R&D department is working on "Amazon Prime Air," a service that enables drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes. The earliest the technology could be in service, however, is 2015, because the FAA will need to update its laws.

Penguin-Inspired Propulsion Uses Novel Spherical Joint Mechanism

Underwater, emperor penguins can turn into regular rockets, accelerating from 0 to 7 m/s in less than a second. Researchers at the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland have created a new propulsion system based on a penguin’s shoulder and wing system that features a...

New Heat-Resistant Materials Could Improve Solar Cell Efficiency

Scientists have created a heat-resistant thermal emitter, an element used in specialized solar cells, that could significantly improve the efficiency of the cells. The novel component is designed to convert heat from the sun into infrared light, which can then be absorbed by solar...

Plasmonic Crystal Alters To Match Light-Frequency Source

Gems are known for the beauty of the light that passes through them. But it is the fixed atomic arrangements of these crystals that determine which light frequencies are permitted passage. Now a Sandia-led team has created a plasmonic, or plasma-containing, crystal that is tunable. The...

Products : Photonics/Optics
Dual Inverted Selective Plane Illumination Microscope

A new dual inverted selective plane illumination microscope from Applied Scientific Instrumentation (Eugene, OR) generates 3d volumes with isotropic resolution (330) nm in all directions, offers axial resolution that is approximately 2x better than confocal or spinning disk systems, features...

Products : Photonics/Optics
Infrared Imaging Camera Engines

Sofradir EC, Inc. (Fairfield, NJ) is introducing a new line of high performance infrared imaging engines. The Miniature Thermal Imaging Engines, labeled “MiTIE”, utilize a Sofradir cryogenically cooled MCT infrared detector. Three models will be introduced, the MiTIE MWIR-HD, a high definition 1280x1024...

Products : Photonics/Optics

The STS-UV Microspectrometer from Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL) is a compact, high-performance spectrometer. Measuring just 40mm x 42mm and 24mm high, this product is optimized for applications in the ultraviolet (190-650 nm) including absorbance measurements, point of care diagnostics, emission spectroscopy and laser...

Products : Photonics/Optics
Thermal Night Vision Systems

Senso Optics (Yokneam, Israel) has announced development of the world’s first "Thermal camera on Chip(TM)" for ADAS (Advance Driver Assistance System). ADAS is a driver warning system, designed to reduce accidents and lane departures by altering the driver. The ADAS also includes advanced features such as active...

Special Camera Makes Hidden Tumors Visible During an Operation

Tumor removal surgeries pose a great challenge even to skillful and experienced surgeons. Up to now, doctors depend exclusively upon their trained eyes when excising pieces of tumors. A new camera system developed by Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Auto- mation...

Imaging System Inspired by Human Eye Can Diagnose Disease

Optical devices like telescopes and microscopes have relied on solid lenses that slide up and down to magnify and to focus. To tune how much light is received, conventional devices use mechanical contraptions like the blades that form the adjustable aperture in cameras. Engineers from...

Inexpensive Nano-Camera Operates at the Speed of Light

A $500 nano-camera that can operate at the speed of light has been developed by researchers in the MIT Media Lab. The three-dimensional cameracould be used in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition...

Question of the Week
Can a Computer Be Taught Common Sense?

Researchers are building a massive computer system that browses millions of pictures and decides for itself what they all mean. The system at Carnegie Mellon University, called NEIL (short for Never Ending Image Learning) has been searching the Internet for images 24/7 and, in tiny steps, is determining how...

News : Green Design & Manufacturing
Researchers Combine Antennas and Solar Cells

Researchers have combined antennas and solar cells to work together with unprecedented efficiency. The development is a first step towards more compact, lightweight satellites. The technology could also be deployed in the autonomous antenna systems used in the aftermath of natural disasters.


Jim Lux, Task Manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

Jim Lux is task manager on FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), a portable radar device that detects heartbeats and breathing of victims trapped under rubble in a disaster.

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detector With Selective Polarization Coupling

A conventional low-noise detector requires a technique to both absorb incident power and convert it to an electrical signal at cryogenic temperatures. This innovation combines low-noise detector and readout functionality into one device while maintaining high absorption,...

Product of the Month: the GEN3i Portable Data Recorder

HBM, Marlborough, MA, has introduced the GEN3i portable data recorder, part of the Genesis High Speed line of data recorders. They are designed for laboratory, power test stands, and destructive material testing applications, as well as for generators, turbines, and engines. The recorder...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Flexible Microstrip Circuits for Superconducting Electronics

Flexible circuits with superconducting wiring atop polyimide thin films are being studied to connect large numbers of wires between stages in cryogenic apparatus with low heat load. The feasibility of a full microstrip process, consisting of two layers of superconducting material...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
High-Temperature, Distributed Control Using Custom CMOS ASICs

Four application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) that provide sensing, actuation, and power conversion capabilities for distributed control in a high-temperature (over 200 °C) environment were developed. The four ASICs are combined with a digital signal processor (DSP) to create...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Use of Highly Integrated Components in the Design of Small Gasoline Engine Controllers

As small gasoline engines evolve to use more sophisticated electronic engine controls, new challenges will face the smallengine manufacturers, including constraints in size and cost, as well as having to meet new emission and fuel efficiency standards driven...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Scatter-Reducing Sounding Filtration Using a Genetic Algorithm and Mean Monthly Standard Deviation

Retrieval algorithms like that used by the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 mission generate massive quantities of data of varying quality and reliability. A computationally efficient, simple method of labeling problematic datapoints or...

Briefs : Software
CFD Extraction Tool for TecPlot From DPLR Solutions

This invention is a TecPlot macro of a computer program in the TecPlot programming language that processes data from DPLR solutions in TecPlot format. DPLR (Data-Parallel Line Relaxation) is a NASA computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code, and TecPlot is a commercial CFD post-processing tool....

Briefs : Medical
RECOVIR Software for Identifying Viruses

Most single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) viruses mutate rapidly to generate a large number of strains with highly divergent capsid sequences. Determining the capsid residues or nucleotides that uniquely characterize these strains is critical in understanding the strain diversity of these viruses. RECOVIR (an...

Briefs : Software
Enhanced Contact Graph Routing (ECGR) MACHETE Simulation Model

Contact Graph Routing (CGR) for Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) space-based networks makes use of the predictable nature of node contacts to make real-time routing decisions given unpredictable traffic patterns. The contact graph will have been disseminated to all nodes...

Briefs : Software
Orbital Debris Engineering Model (ORDEM) v.3

A model of the manmade orbital debris environment is required by spacecraft designers, mission planners, and others in order to understand and mitigate the effects of the environment on their spacecraft or systems. A manmade environment is dynamic, and can be altered significantly by intent (e.g., the...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Hermetic Seal Designs for Sample Return Sample Tubes

Prototypes have been developed of potential hermetic sample sealing techniques for encapsulating samples in a ≈1-cm-diameter thin-walled sample tube that are compatible with IMSAH (Integrated Mars Sample Acquisition and Handling) architecture. Techniques include a heat-activated, finned,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Thermo-Mechanical Methodology for Stabilizing Shape Memory Alloy Response

This innovation is capable of significantly reducing the amount of time required to stabilize the strain-temperature response of a shape memory alloy (SMA). Unlike traditional stabilization processes that take days to weeks to achieve stabilized response, this innovation...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Silicon Alignment Pins: An Easy Way To Realize a Wafer-to-Wafer Alignment

Submillimeter heterodyne instruments play a critical role in addressing fundamental questions regarding the evolution of galaxies as well as being a crucial tool in planetary science. To make these instruments compatible with small platforms, especially for the study of...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Temperature Considerations When Specifying LVDT Linear Position Sensors

The LVDT linear position sensor can operate successfully over a wide range of temperatures, depending upon its design and the application in which it is operating. While the output of the LVDT linear position sensor is not immune to temperature variation, proper design and...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Electric Machine With Boosted Inductance to Stabilize Current Control

High-powered motors typically have very low resistance and inductance (R and L) in their windings. This makes the pulse-width modulated (PWM) control of the current very difficult, especially when the bus voltage (V) is high. These R and L values are dictated by the motor...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Positive-Buoyancy Rover for Under Ice Mobility

A buoyant rover has been developed to traverse the underside of ice-covered lakes and seas. The rover operates at the ice/water interface and permits direct observation and measurement of processes affecting freeze- over and thaw events in lake and marine environments. Operating along the 2- D...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
International Space Station- Based Electromagnetic Launcher for Space Science Payloads

A method was developed of lowering the cost of planetary exploration missions by using an electromagnetic propulsion/launcher, rather than a chemical-fueled rocket for propulsion. An electromagnetic launcher (EML) based at the International Space Station (ISS)...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Advanced Hybrid Spacesuit Concept Featuring Integrated Open Loop and Closed Loop Ventilation Systems

A document discusses the design and prototype of an advanced spacesuit concept that integrates the capability to function seamlessly with multiple ventilation system approaches. Traditionally, spacesuits are designed to operate both dependently...

Briefs : Information Technology
Data Quality Screening Service

A report describes the Data Quality Screening Service (DQSS), which is designed to help automate the filtering of remote sensing data on behalf of science users. Whereas this process often involves much research through quality documents followed by laborious coding, the DQSS is a Web Service that provides data...

Articles : Software
Industry Roundtable: Analysis & Simulation Software 2013

In today’s environment of doing more with less, designers and engineers are constantly pressured to increase productivity, especially in small- and medium-sized businesses where a few people perform the tasks of many. As a result, simulation becomes not only a productivity tool, but also...

Application Briefs : Medical
Cryogenic Supply System Protects Crews from Hazardous Gases

The Cryogenic Refuge Alternative Supply System (CryoRASS), and a smaller liquid air-filled backpack under development at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Biomedical Lab, have the potential to store more than twice the amount of breathable air than traditional compressed gas...

Application Briefs : Materials
NASA Selects “Game-Changing” Thermal Management Concept

Thermacore was recently selected by NASA Space Technology’s Game Changing Development Program to have one of its thermal management concepts evaluated for potential use in future spacecraft.

Application Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Air-Data System Detects Aircraft Icing

Michigan Aerospace Corporation (MAC) has begun work on a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with NASA’s Langley Research Center. The contract, “RIDES: Raman Icing Detection System,” extends MAC’s present aircraft-based optical airdata system technology — which uses...

Products : Electronics & Computers
Vote for NASA Tech Briefs’ 19th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards

It’s that time of year when we ask NASA Tech Briefs readers to vote for the annual Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Awards.

Each month, our editors choose a Product of the Month that has exceptional technical merit and practical value for our design engineering...

Articles : Test & Measurement
Elemental Scanning Devices Authenticate Works of Art

Are the shoes you’re wearing really made of leather? Is the table nearby made of wood? How can you be sure? These questions may seem trivial in everyday life, but knowing the precise chemical makeup of spacecraft components is a crucial part of quality control and can help ensure a...

Articles : Imaging
3D Visualization Technologies: Seeing a World of Opportunity

Industries as diverse as architecture, engineering, construction, advertising, and medical have all incorporated an array of 3D visualization technologies into their design, development, and production processes. A rapidly expanding library of 3D modeling tools, 3D content, and 3D...

Articles : Imaging
Precision Electronics and Laser Optics Expand Thermal Applications

Thermal imagers allow a user to see an object’s heat signature, and heat provides an entirely different set of performance data than the visible spectrum available to the naked eye. A fully radiometric camera will calculate a temperature value for every pixel seen on screen....

Application Briefs : Imaging
Ophthalmology Imaging: The Importance of Color Reproduction

Lumenera recently partnered with an ophthalmology diagnostic device manufacturer that required a camera for integration into its product. The goal was to obtain sharp retinal fundus images with accurate color reproduction for documentation, sharing, and storage of their results. A date...

Products : Imaging
Multi-Touch Displays

American Industrial Systems (Irvine, CA) has announced industrial, widescreen, multi-touch HMI monitors and displays. A Projected Capacitive Sensor provides a gesture-based HMI interface that allows interactions such as pan, zoom, and rotate.

Products : Imaging

Edmund Optics (Barrington, NJ) has doubled its offering of stock Zinc Selenide Plano-Convex (PCX) Lenses. The Zinc Selenide Plano-Convex Lenses are available individually, in diameters of 12.7, 25.4, and 50.8 mm, with a variety of focal lengths in both uncoated and 8-12 μm AR coated models. The anti-reflection coating has less than 0.5%...

Products : Imaging
High-Speed Camera

The S-MIZE EM high-speed camera from AOS Technologies AG (Baden, Switzerland) has built-in PowerPC architecture, which duplicates the control and status lines of a film camera. A range of available connectors also enable integration.

Products : Imaging
Frame Grabbers

BitFlow (Woburn, MA) provides an alternative to four-link CoaXPress (CXP) frame grabbers with its Karbon™ CXP2, a two-link frame grabber. BitFlow Karbon-CXP2 frame grabbers offer video acquisition speeds up to 6 Gigabits per second, and will send control commands and triggers at 20 Megabits per second — all over a 75 ohm...

Products : Imaging
Vision System

Teledyne DALSA (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) has released the GEVA 3000 vision system. The fanless GEVA 3000 is equipped with a Gen3 Core i7 processor, choice of camera interface, and application software.

Products : Imaging
Thermal Cameras

FLIR Systems (Portland, OR) has announced the FLIR A6700sc midwave infrared camera. The device features a 640×512 pixel resolution thermal detector. Short exposure times allow users to freeze motion and achieve accurate temperature measurements. The camera’s image output can be windowed to increase frame rates to 480 frames...

Products : Imaging
Camera Software

The pylon 4 Camera Software Suite offered by Basler (Ahrensburg, Germany) supports USB3 Vision and Windows 8. The Basler pylon 4 includes all drivers necessary to establish the various camera interface standards (USB3 Vision, GigE Vision, IEEE1394, Camera Link); a complete software development kit (SDK) with programming examples...

Products : Imaging
Thermal Imaging System

Ircon® (Santa Cruz, CA) has introduced the ScanIR® 3 infrared linescanners and thermal imaging system. The ScanIR3 Series includes a choice of eight models. Robust housing incorporates standard watercooling and air purge, and also features built-in laser sighting. A rugged processor box also provides universal input and...

Products : Imaging
Wireless Surveillance Camera

MicroPower Technologies (San Diego, CA) has announced the Helios ™ IR Camera. With the addition of an energy-efficient IR illuminator, the Helios day/night device captures and transmits IR-illuminated video data wirelessly up to ½ mile. Powered by solar energy and an internal, long-life lithium battery, the Helios...

Products : Imaging
Machine Vision Camera

Measuring 23 × 26.5 × 21.5 mm (.9 × 1.04 × .84"), the uEye™ XS from IDS Imaging Development Systems (Woburn, MA) delivers images from distances of 10 cm, either automatically or manually using software. The associated API function also enables the current focus position to be read. Digital zoom allows continuous...

Articles : Motion Control
Optimizing Closed-Loop Control in Hydraulic Motion

Performing closed-loop control of hydraulic servo systems is often more challenging than controlling servomotor systems. The main reason is that hydraulic systems use compressible oil to move the actuator. Because of this, a hydraulic system can be modeled as a mass between two springs, where...

Articles : Defense
iSLC Flash Technology

Robots have been employed by the military to assist in missions where it would be, and has been, too dangerous to have a human being take on the task. These robots can detect and disable bombs. Some can be thrown into rooms where they land on their “feet”, and scan the room for counter-insurgents. Others blow up mine...

Who's Who
Jim Lux, Task Manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

Jim Lux is task manager on FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), a portable radar device that detects heartbeats and breathing of victims trapped under rubble in a disaster.

NASA Tech Briefs: What is FINDER?

Jim Lux: FINDER...


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


Articles: Materials

Lightweighting in Aerospace Component and System Design

NASA Spinoff: Electronics & Computers

Sterilizing Fogger Cleans Ambulances with a Breeze

Articles: Motion Control

Advantages of Servo Motor and Direct Drive Technology

Application Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Multiple Sensors Aid in Development of an Electrical Vertical Takeoff and Landing Aircraft

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Gap Welding Preforms