July 2014

News : Motion Control
Pumping Efficiency Into Electric Motors

University of Adelaide (Australia) researchers are using new magnetic materials to develop revolutionary electrical motors and generators that promise significant energy savings. They have used the new motors to develop patented highly efficient water pump systems with potential widespread application.

News : Imaging
Using Videos to Reconstruct 3D Motion Without Markers

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed techniques for combining the views of 480 video cameras mounted in a two-story geodesic dome to perform large-scale 3D motion reconstruction. The techniques might eventually be applied to large-scale reconstructions of sporting events or...

Question of the Week
Will Adaptable Furniture Achieve Mainstream Acceptance?

Roombots self-configurable robotics which can merge with materials to create adaptable furniture for the home and office. The lab will initially use the intelligent furniture to assist the elderly and those with reduced mobility. The team then plans to improve the human-robot interactions...

News : Materials
Researchers Build 'Invisible' Materials with Light

Metamaterials have a wide range of potential applications, including sensing and improving military stealth technology. Before cloaking devices can become reality on a larger scale, however, researchers must determine how to make the right materials at the nanoscale. Using light is now shown to...

News : Energy
Spongelike Structure Converts Solar Energy into Steam

A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun.

The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot...

News : RF & Microwave Electronics
Astronauts to Test Free-Flying Robotic 'Smart SPHERES'

Three bowling ball-size free-flying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying inside the International Space Station since 2006. These satellites provide a test bed for development and research, each having its own power, propulsion,...

Who's Who : Photonics/Optics
Dr. Keith Gendreau, Principal Investigator, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

Dr. Keith Gendreau is the principal investigator of the upcoming Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) mission. He was the 2011 Innovator of the Year at Goddard Space Flight Center, and he has been developing X-ray detectors, optics, and other...

Question of the Week
Are Driverless Car Concerns Overblown?

According to a newly released FBI report, the driverless cars of the future could aid criminals by introducing the potential for “multitasking.” The report also said that the cars themselves could be turned into “lethal weapons” by evildoers. The report, however, also stated that the autonomous...

News : Aerospace
Hurricane-Tracking Unmanned Systems Win NASA Challenge
Hurricane-Tracking Unmanned Systems Win NASA Challenge

NASA has selected three winning designs solicited to address the technological limitations of the uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) currently used to track and collect data on hurricanes....

Hurricane-Tracking Unmanned Systems Win NASA Challenge
News : Aerospace
Agile Aperture Antenna Tested on Aircraft to Maintain Satellite Connection

Two of Georgia Tech's software-defined, electronically reconfigurable Agile Aperture Antennas (A3) were demonstrated in an aircraft during flight tests. The low-power devices can change beam directions in a thousandth of a second. One device, looking up, maintained a...

News : Energy
New Fuel Cells Increase Airplane Efficiency

Washington State University researchers have developed the first fuel cell that can directly convert fuels, such as jet fuel or gasoline, to electricity, providing a dramatically more energy-efficient way to create electric power for planes or cars.

News : Imaging
Heat-Sensing Camera Reveals Map of Mars Surface

A heat-sensing camera designed at Arizona State University has provided data to create the most detailed global map yet made of Martian surface properties.

The map uses data from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a nine-band visual and infrared camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey...

News : Energy
New Study Uses Blizzard to Measure Wind Turbine Airflow
New Study Uses Blizzard to Measure Wind Turbine Airflow

A study by researchers at the University of Minnesota using snow during a Minnesota blizzard is giving researchers new insight into the airflow around large wind turbines. This research...

New Study Uses Blizzard to Measure Wind Turbine Airflow
News : Robotics, Automation & Control
NASA Completes Successful Test of Saucer-Shaped Vehicle for Mars Missions

NASA completed a near-space test flight of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), developed to evaluate new landing technologies for future Mars missions. While this initial test was designed to determine the flying ability of the vehicle, it also deployed two...

News : Photonics/Optics
Gas Flow Measurement Technology Packs Hundreds of Sensors Into One Optical Fiber

By fusing together the concepts of active fiber sensors and high-temperature fiber sensors, a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh has created an all-optical high-temperature sensor for gas flow measurements that operates at record-setting...

News : Test & Measurement
NASA’s High-Flying Laser Altimeter Measures Summer Sea Ice

When NASA launches the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, in 2017, it will measure Earth’s elevation by sending out pulses of green laser light and timing how long it takes individual photons to bounce off Earth’s surface and return. The number and patterns of...

News : Aerospace
Engineers Use Resin Inks, 3D Printing to Build Lightweight Cellular Composites

Like other manufactured products that use sandwich panel construction to achieve a combination of light weight and strength, turbine blades contain carefully arrayed strips of balsa wood from Ecuador, which provides 95 percent of the world’s supply.

As turbine...

Question of the Week
Will The Popularity Of Drones Carry Major Risks?

New York City police have reported a growing number of incidents involving wayward drones. A crew member of an NYPD helicopter, for example, recently had to change its course after spotting a flying object headed in its direction. Some police are concerned that the increasing popularity of drones...

News : Electronics & Computers
New Material Could Pave the Way for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries

Chemists have synthesized a new material that could show the way forward to state-of-the-art lithium-sulfur batteries for electric cars. The industry is currently placing most of its hopes in lithium-sulfur batteries, which have a very high storage capacity. Moreover, thanks to the...

News : Electronics & Computers
Network-on-a-Chip Could Reduce Data-Farm Energy Use

Washington State University has developed a wireless network on a computer chip that could reduce energy consumption at huge data farms by as much as 20 percent. The wireless multicore chip design could also speed up data processing. The network-on-a-chip allows for wireless links between...

News : Electronics & Computers
New Battery is Cheap, Clean, Rechargeable, and Organic

Scientists at USC have developed a water-based organic battery that is long-lasting, and built from cheap, eco-friendly components. The new battery — which uses no metals or toxic materials — is intended for use in power plants, where it can make the energy grid more resilient and...

News : Imaging
Nano-Pixels Promise Flexible, High-Res Displays

A new discovery will make it possible to create pixels just a few hundred nanometers across. The "nano-pixels" could pave the way for extremely high-resolution and low-energy thin, flexible displays for applications such as 'smart' glasses, synthetic retinas, and foldable screens.


News : Robotics, Automation & Control
New Drones Ensure Ideal Photographic Lighting Positions

Researchers at MIT and Cornell University will provide photographers with squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the right positions for photographic lighting.

With the new system, the photographer indicates the direction from which the rim light...

News : Transportation
Inspired by Nature, Researchers Build a Tougher Metal

Drawing inspiration from the structure of bones and bamboo, researchers have gradually changed the internal structure of metals to make stronger, tougher materials. The new metals can be customized for a wide variety of applications — from body armor to automobile parts.

The research...

News : Electronics & Computers
Students Design Robotic Gardeners for Deep Space

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder are designing robots to work in a deep-space habitat, tending gardens and growing food for astronaut explorers.

The team's entry in the eXploration HABitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is called "Plants Anywhere: Plants Growing...

News : Sensors/Data Acquisition
New Technology Detects Bacterial Pathogens in Soldiers' Combat Wounds

A biological detection technology developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists can detect bacterial pathogens in the wounds of U.S. soldiers that have previously been missed by other technologies. This advance may, in time, allow an improvement in how...

News : Communications
Scientists Demonstrate Data Teleportation for Secure Communications

Teleportation, a long-standing staple in the world of science fiction, has become a reality for scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in terms of battlefield data and image processing. Army Research Laboratory quantum information principal investigator Ronald Meyers...

News : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Synthetic Aperture Sonar Can Help Navy Hunt Sea Mines

Since World War II, sea mines have damaged or sunk four times more U.S. Navy ships than all other means of attack combined, according to a Navy report on mine warfare. New sonar research being performed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) could improve the Navy’s ability to find...

Products : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Products of Tomorrow: July 2014

The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some...

Articles : Robotics, Automation & Control
The Modern Industrial Workhorse: PID Controllers
The Modern Industrial Workhorse: PID Controllers

Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) controllers are used in most automatic process control applications in industry today to regulate flow, temperature, pressure, level, and many other...

The Modern Industrial Workhorse: PID Controllers
Articles : Aerospace
Standards Help Protect Technology and Life in Orbit or on Earth

A recent conversation with engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston revealed that there’s often “a world of difference” between the standards for circuit protection components for a typical Earthbound electronics engineering application, and those intended for use...

Application Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Torque Sensors Provide Force Feedback for Robotic Applications
Torque sensing technology
ATI Industrial Automation
Apex, NC

ATI Industrial Automation is developing multi-axis, force/torque sensing technology to be used in space exploration, including future Mars missions. Currently...

Application Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Heat Pipe Assembly Passes NASA Hypersonic Tests
Embedded heat pipe assembly
Lancaster, PA

A Thermacore heat pipe assembly recently completed testing at the NASA Ames Arc Jet Complex, operating at very high temperatures in a hypersonic leading-edge simulation.

Application Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Liquid Flow Sensor Launches into Space
LS16 liquid flow sensor
Westlake Village, CA

A liquid flow sensor from Sensirion will measure the impact of microgravity on the effectiveness of liquid flow. Among other potential findings, the project aims to shed light on the...

Articles : Automotive
Spacecraft Seat Standards Lead to Comfort in Your Car

In the beginning, safety outweighed comfort in spacecraft designs for human space travel. Capsules like Gemini and Apollo were small, and most of the flight activities were performed while the crew was strapped to their seats. Later, NASA devoted more attention to understanding how a...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Strobing to Mitigate Vibration for Display Legibility

This method mitigates the motion blur introduced when a display, and/or the operator reading it, is undergoing vibration (e.g. during the launch phase of spaceflight). If both the operator and the display are undergoing vibration, their respective impulses need not be in phase. This...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Imaging Space System Architectures Using a Granular Medium as a Primary Concentrator

Typically, the cost of a space observatory is driven by the size and mass of the primary aperture. Generally, a monolithic aperture is much heavier and complex to fabricate (hence, more costly) than an aperture of the same size but composed of much smaller...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Image Processing Method To Determine Dust Optical Density

Image processing techniques for determining dust optical density in Apollo videos have been developed. The software generates histograms, and calculates the mean and standard deviation, which are then used to match dusty and clear images for the purpose of estimating an effective optical...

Briefs : Information Technology
Automatic Lunar Rock Detection and Mapping

Safe spacecraft landing on planetary and small body surfaces is of primary concern. Estimation of landing risk is a critical task when evaluating and certifying potential landing sites. Such analyses require the detection and mapping of all potential landing hazards such as rocks and boulders, craters,...

Briefs : Information Technology
Technique for Finding the Center of an Image of a Rising or Setting Sun Based on Simulated Images

A new JPL project requires that the center of the images of a rising or setting Sun be determined with certain accuracy — for example, within 1 km — when the Sun is observed from the International Space Station (ISS). This center-finding...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
High/Low-Temperature Contactless RF Probes for Characterizing Microwave Integrated Circuits and Devices

Low-temperature, contactless radio-frequency (RF) probing systems are necessary for characterizing sensors operating at liquid nitrogen or helium temperatures, and based on superconducting materials. The design and operation of the contactless...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Multi-Tone, High-Frequency Synthesizer for CubeSat-Borne Beacon Transmitter for Radio Wave Atmospheric Propagation Studies

This report presents the design, construction, and test results of a novel multitone, multi-band, high-frequency synthesizer for application in a space-borne (including a CubeSat) beacon transmitter for radio wave...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Dynamic Response Determination of an Electronic Printed Circuit Board

Most of today’s automotive electronic systems are composed of two major mechanical elements: an equipment chassis or enclosure, and a printed circuit board (PCB) assembly. The PCB is composed of laminated copper and FR-4 glass epoxy. These systems often operate in severe...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Wii Nunchuk Controller for ATHLETE Operations

The Arduino platform was used to develop an interface between two otherwise incompatible commercial devices in order to drive the ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) rover over long distances. The Portable Operations Terminal consists of three distinct parts: a robot-mounted...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Full-Cell Evaluation/Screening Technique for New Battery Chemistries

A quick and cost-effective evaluation/screening technique for new battery chemistries was developed that integrates the individual advanced cell component in a full-cell format to identify the critical issues, such as cell component interaction and compatibility before...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Growth Method for Chalcongenide Phase-Change Nanostructures

Recently, one-dimensional (1-D) nanostructures, such as nanowires and nanotubes, have become the focal point of research in nanotechnology due to their fascinating properties. These properties are intrinsically associated with low dimensionality and small diameters, which may lead to...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
ELID Grinding of Large Aspheres

This work focused on a manufacturing process to produce silicon carbide optical surfaces with low mid-spatial surface errors. Mid-spatial frequency (MSF) and high-spatial frequency (HSF) surface errors in the grinding of fast aspheres are amplified in hard ceramics like silicon carbide due to cyclic tool wear...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Highly Aligned Electrospun Fibers and Mats

A modified electrospinning apparatus has been created for spinning highly aligned polymer fibers. Fiber placement, orientation, and porosity are difficult to control using conventional electrospinning apparatus. Conventional electrospinning creates randomly oriented fibers that are well suited to...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Compact Regenerative Blower

The regenerative blower provides air flow through structures or systems that have relatively high flow resistance. Specifically, the regenerative blower was designed to provide a flow of ventilation gas through a spacesuit and its portable life support system (PLSS). Since the ventilation gas is primarily oxygen, fire...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Shape-Memory-Alloy-Based Launch Lock

Most NASA missions require the use of a launch lock for securing moving components during the launch or securing the payload before release. A launch lock is used to prevent unwanted motion and secure the controlled components. The current launch locks are based on pyrotechnic, electromechanical or...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Rotary Microspine Technology

Mobility for small, man-portable reconnaissance robots in the past has been limited with regard to obstacles like curbs, stairs, and vertical walls. A previous innovation overcame these obstacles by introducing rotary microspines — sharp hooks supported by elastic elements on a wheel. In this innovation, the work...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Percussive Augmenter of Rotary Drills for Operation as a Rotary-Hammer Drill

A piezoelectrically actuated percussive bit augments rotary drills to form a rotary-hammering drill/sampler. The Percussive Augmenter of Rotary Drills (PARoD) bit has two key modalities: one with vibrating free-mass and one without. In the first modality, the bit is...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Non-Collinear Valve Actuator

Typical large aerospace valves use pneumatic actuators with large return springs to define a normal state. These springs are exclusively in line with the pneumatic actuator, and therefore are forced to have the same stroke and forces. These typical systems use either a large helical spring or a stack of Bellville...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Vibration and Thermal Cycling Apparatus for Cryogenic Tanks

Understanding thermal and mechanical behaviors and their inter-dependencies of complex tank systems is crucial to making proper design decisions. Low-maintenance, high-performance systems are becoming more important as global energy demands and efficiency requirements increase.

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Integrated Rate Isolation Sensor

Some vehicles use an internal measurement unit (IMU) system to determine the speed, acceleration, orientation, position, and/or direction of movement of the vehicle. Vehicles used for high-availability or life-critical systems may employ a fault-tolerant IMU design. Typically, such vehicles use three or more IMUs...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Mercury-Cadmium-Telluride Focal Plane Array for Warm Alignment of Imaging Spectroscopy Systems

A new technique allows a mercury-cadmium-telluride (MCT) focal plane array (FPA) to operate at room temperature. These results were obtained through experimentation by varying the integration time, frame rate, and bias levels to optimize the output...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Enhanced Auditory Alert Systems

Auditory warning systems for human interfaces are often designed around criteria that depend primarily upon signal loudness. It is well understood from the auditory literature that, by making an alert signal substantially louder than the measured background noise level, one can insure that an alert signal will be...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Carbon Monoxide Silicate Reduction System

Oxygen produced from lunar resources is a very desirable product to greatly reduce the mass lifted from the Earth’s surface in support of exploration activities. The ability to obtain high yields of oxygen from undifferentiated lunar soils enables planning for near-term piloted missions to the Moon....

Briefs : Information Technology
Modeling Lunar Surface Systems Concepts of Operations

The goal of this work was to model lunar surface systems using a declarative planning system (ASPEN — Activity Scheduling/Planning Environment), provide a parameterizable Excel document to aid in the model generation, and deliver both Mac and PC versions. An adaptation of Microsoft Excel...

Briefs : Information Technology
Portable Distributed Scripts (PoDS)

“Portable Distributed Scripts” (PoDS) is a Python application that allows users to execute serial independent tasks concurrently across nodes on multicore clusters. The package consists of a set of scripts working together through a simple text-based interface. A user only needs to provide minimal...

Briefs : Information Technology
Slot-Sampled Optical PPM Demodulation

In order to demodulate an optical PPM signal, the receiver must align its slot clock to that of the received waveform to count the number of arrivals within each slot. The large bandwidth expansion factor of PPM, M/log2(M) requires a prohibitively large sample rate when a fixed sample clock N...

Briefs : Information Technology
Small-Object Detection via Fast Discrete Curvelet Transform

The detection of distant objects in an image is relevant to applications in defense, security, and robotics. Successfully detecting objects of interest has been a common problem with respect to intelligent computer vision. Automatic target recognition (ATR) systems have been formulated...

Techs for License
DBD Device Offers Transdermal Medicine Delivery

DBD Innovations

Iontophoresis is a well-researched technique for delivering medicines and cosmetic agents through the skin. Current techniques, however, are inefficient, and existing devices are often expensive, bulky, and awkward. A Dielectric Barrier Discharge Iontophoresis (DBDI)...

Techs for License
Dispensing Closure Technology Seals and Separates Ingredients

StarOne Group

The Drop-Top™, a container closure and delivery system, features an internal, multi-cavity design that stores up to three separate doses of ingredients, including liquids, powders, gases, granules, or tablets. The dispensing closure technology increases the...

Tech Needs
Extended-Wear Patches for Skin Hydration

Moisturizers and active ingredients must be held against human skin in a patch format. To enhance uptake, a new material needs to be designed for extended wear from 1-10 hours. Comfort and physical flexibility are two chief requirements. Ideally, the patch will also reduce the appearance of wrinkles....

Tech Needs
Monitoring Battery Health in Solar-Charged Systems

In solar-powered, battery-run systems, each unit’s battery stores electricity generated by the solar panel during the day and provides electricity to a load when required. The systems currently are networked, but no method is in place to determine or report battery health. A client seeks ways...

Product of the Month: July 2014

The iQ-200™ instrument from Advanced Thermal Solutions, Norwood, MA, measures the temperatures of solid materials and surrounding air, while also tracking air velocity and air pressure. Measurements are taken simultaneously at multiple points to profile heat sinks, PCBs, and card racks for testing and...

Articles : Photonics/Optics
CCD and CMOS Sensors

What's best for your application?

How does one select the best HD video camera and imaging sensor for professional video in applications such as life sciences, surgical imaging, microscopy, industrial imaging, and specialized point-of-view broadcasting where physical camera size is important and exceptional color...

Application Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Laser Scribing of Photovoltaic Materials

Solar technologies use the sun’s energy to provide heat, light, hot water, electricity, and even cooling, for homes, businesses, and industry. Despite sunlight’s significant potential for supplying energy, solar power provides less than 1% of U.S. energy needs.

Products : Photonics/Optics
Product of the Month: Hyperspectral Imager

SPECIM Spectral Imaging Ltd. (Oulu, Finland) has released AisaIBIS, a robust and very high spectral resolution hyperspectral imager for ground and airborne measurement of sun induced fluorescence from plants.

Products : Photonics/Optics
Pulsed Laser Diodes

Laser Components Canada (Hudson, NH) has set a new world record with its pulsed laser diodes at 905 nm. Peak power levels of up to 650W emitted from a small TO-18 housing and are available on a standard basis. These PLDs are based on “multi-junction” laser technology, meaning they contain several epitaxially integrated...

Products : Photonics/Optics
Miniature Full Feature HD/SDI 1080p Camera

Viewbits (San Diego, CA), the industrial cameras division of Computer Modules, Inc., are now shipping the GNAT 1080p 60™, their new mini 1080p HD camera that supports 60 frames per second. The 2.1 megapixel ultra-compact camera measures just over 1.65 inches (42 millimeters) and features a 1/3 inch...

Products : Photonics/Optics
Liquid Crystal Thermography System

The new ethermVIEW™ liquid crystal thermographic analysis system from Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (Norwood, MA) provides optical temperature measurements of active PCBs and components. The ethermVIEW system uses the color response of thermochromic liquid crystals (TLC) for non-invasive thermal...

Products : Photonics/Optics
2 MP HDTV Format Cameras

Camera manufacturer Basler (Ahrensburg, Germany) has expanded its ace camera family to include monochrome and color models in full HD format. The acA1920-25 cameras deliver speeds of 25 fps at 2 MP resolution (1920 pixels x 1080 pixels). They come with a Gigabit Ethernet or USB 3.0 interface and are 100% compliant with...

Products : Photonics/Optics
Image Processing Software

The EyeVision image processing software by EVT (Karlsruhe, Germany) now also supports the liquid lens by Opto-Tune. With the new driving module this is easier than ever because even in the case of different component heights, the focus can be adjusted automatically and fast with the EyeVision software.

Products : Photonics/Optics
Multi-layer Thickness Measurement System

Saelig Company, Inc. (Fairport, NY) has announced the OptiGauge MLS™, a patented non-contact thickness measurement system that is non-destructive and since it is self-calibrating, it leaves no opportunity for operator error. The OptiGauge MLS™ can measure each translucent coating in an object up to 20...

Question of the Week
Would You Cook with ‘Julia?’