August 2008

Articles : Test & Measurement
Three Strategies for Building Efficient Test Systems

Test engineers are facing new pressures to develop high-performance test systems that maximize efficiency. Despite rapidly increasing device complexity, they have to deliver higher-speed and lower-cost test systems, as well as contribute to corporate sustainability programs. This pressure is...

Application Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
NASA Probes Gather Solar Information
STEREO observatories and Solar Probe
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Laurel, MD

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) is comprised of two nearly identical spacecraft that were launched in 2006. They will...

Application Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Spacecraft Leak Detection System Uses Ultrasonic Sensors
Spacecraft leak detection system
Conroe, TX

NASA has selected a spacecraft leak detection system from Invocon that would sense and locate air leaks in pressurized space stations or lunar habitat modules caused by...

iMonitor 2.0

Aegis Software, Horsham, PA, has introduced iMonitor 2.0 software that enables manufacturers to create real-time dashboards to monitor their enterprise, factory, and processes through Web browsers. It provides interactive production tracking, materials, utilization, alarm, line condition, tooling life, and quality dashboards, which...

Who's Who
Bill Thigpen, Engineering Branch Chief of NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division

As Engineering Branch Chief for NASA's Advanced Supercomputing Division, Bill Thigpen led the team that built and deployed the 10,240-processor Columbia supercomputer in just 120 days. Listed as one of the world's fastest and most powerful supercomputers,...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Hand-Held Ultrasonic Instrument for Reading Matrix Symbols

A hand-held instrument that would include an ultrasonic camera has been proposed as an efficient means of reading matrix symbols. The proposed instrument could be operated without mechanical raster scanning. All electronic functions from excitation of ultrasonic pulses through final...

Briefs : Information Technology
Visual Data Analysis for Satellites

The Visual Data Analysis Package is a collection of programs and scripts that facilitate visual analysis of data available from NASA and NOAA satellites, as well as dropsonde, buoy, and conventional in-situ observations. The package features utilities for data extraction, data quality control, statistical...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Two-Camera Acquisition and Tracking of a Flying Target

A method and apparatus have been developed to solve the problem of automated acquisition and tracking, from a location on the ground, of a luminous moving target in the sky. The method involves the use of two electronic cameras: (1) a stationary camera having a wide field of view, positioned...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Customizable Digital Receivers for Radar

Compact, highly customizable digital receivers are being developed for the system described in "Radar Interferometer for Topographic Mapping of Glaciers and Ice Sheets" (NPO-43962), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 7 (August 2007), page 72. In the original intended application, there is a requirement for 16...

Briefs : Information Technology
A Data Type for Efficient Representation of Other Data Types

A self-organizing, monomorphic data type denoted a sequence has been conceived to address certain concerns (summarized below) that arise in programming parallel computers. ["Sequence" as used here should not be confused with "sequence" as the word is commonly understood or with...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Lower-Dark-Current, Higher-Blue-Response CMOS Imagers

Several improved designs for complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) integrated- circuit image detectors have been developed, primarily to reduce dark currents (leakage currents) and secondarily to increase responses to blue light and increase signal- handling capacities, relative to...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Broadband Microstrip-to-Coplanar Strip Double-Y Balun

A new version of the double-Y balun, transitioning from an unbalanced microstrip to a balanced coplanar strip (CPS) line, has been designed to feed a complementary spiral antenna with an input impedance of 100 Ω. Various versions of the double-Y balun have been investigated in previous...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
A Topographical Lidar System for Terrain-Relative Navigation

An imaging lidar system is being developed for use in navigation, relative to the local terrain. This technology will potentially be used for future spacecraft landing on the Moon. Systems like this one could also be used on Earth for diverse purposes, including mapping terrain,...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Electronic Switch Arrays for Managing Microbattery Arrays

Integrated circuits have been invented for managing the charging and discharging of such advanced miniature energy-storage devices as planar arrays of microscopic energy- storage elements [typically, microscopic electrochemical cells (microbatteries) or microcapacitors]. The architecture...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Programmable Low-Voltage Circuit Breaker and Tester

An instrumentation system that would comprise a remotely controllable and programmable low- voltage circuit breaker plus several electric- circuit-testing subsystems has been conceived, originally for use aboard a spacecraft during all phases of operation from pre-launch testing through launch,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Fabricating Large-Area Sheets of Single-Layer Graphene by CVD

This innovation consists of a set of methodologies for preparing large area (>1 cm2) domains of single-atomic-layer graphite, also called graphene, in single (two-dimensional) crystal form. To fabricate a single graphene layer using chemical vapor deposition (CVD), the...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Heat Transfer Analysis for Optimizing Solar Cell Casting Equipment

Solar Power Industries' (SPI) current annual production capacity for processing polycrystalline silicon feedstock into completed solar cells has grown to 40 megawatts, with plans to increase capacity to 250 megawatts over the next several years. SPI's solar cell manufacturing...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Support for Diagnosis of Custom Computer Hardware

The Coldfire SDN Diagnostics software is a flexible means of exercising, testing, and debugging custom computer hardware. The software is a set of routines that, collectively, serve as a common software interface through which one can gain access to various parts of the hardware under test and/or...

Briefs : Information Technology
Providing Goal-Based Autonomy for Commanding a Spacecraft

A computer program for use aboard a scientific- exploration spacecraft autonomously selects among goals specified in high-level requests and generates corresponding sequences of low-level commands, understandable by spacecraft systems. (As used here, "goals" signifies specific scientific...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Dynamic Method For Identifying Collected Sample Mass

G-Sample is designed for sample collection missions to identify the presence and quantity of sample material gathered by spacecraft equipped with end effectors. The software method uses a maximum-likelihood estimator to identify the collected sample's mass based on onboard force-sensor...

Briefs : Information Technology
Optimal Planning and Problem-Solving

CTAEMS MDP Optimal Planner is a problem- solving software designed to command a single spacecraft/rover, or a team of spacecraft/ rovers, to perform the best action possible at all times according to an abstract model of the spacecraft/rover and its environment. It also may be useful in solving logistical...

Briefs : Information Technology
Attitude-Control Algorithm for Minimizing Maneuver Execution Errors

A G-RAC attitude- control algorithm is used to minimize maneuver execution error in a spacecraft with a flexible appendage when said spacecraft must induce translational momentum by firing (in open loop) large thrusters along a desired direction for a given period of time. The...

Briefs : Information Technology
Grants Document-Generation System

The Grants Document- Generation System (GDGS) software allows the generation of official grants documents for distribution to the appropriate parties. The documents are created after the selection and entry of specific data elements and clauses. GDGS is written in Cold Fusion that resides on an SQL2000 database...

Briefs : Materials
Precipitation-Strengthened, High-Temperature, High-Force Shape Memory Alloys

Shape memory alloys (SMAs) are an enabling component in the development of compact, lightweight, durable, high-force actuation systems particularly for use where hydraulics or electrical motors are not practical. However, commercial shape memory alloys based on NiTi are...

Briefs : Materials
Heat-Storage Modules Containing LiNO3•3H2O and Graphite Foam

A heat-storage module based on a commercial open-cell graphite foam (PocoFoam or equivalent) imbued with lithium nitrate trihydrate (LiNO3•3H2O) has been developed as a prototype of other such modules for use as short-term heat sources or heat sinks in the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Improved Relief Valve Would Be Less Susceptible to Failure

The balanced-piston relief valve with side vented reaction cavity has been proposed as an improved alternative to a conventional high- pressure, high-flow relief valve. As explained below, the proposed valve would be less susceptible to failure.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Using Composite Materials in a Cryogenic Pump

Several modifications have been made to the design and operation of an extended-shaft cryogenic pump to increase the efficiency of pumping. In general, the efficiency of pumping a cryogenic fluid is limited by thermal losses (the thermal energy that the pump adds to the fluid). The sources of the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Safety Modification of Cam-and-Groove Hose Coupling

A modification has been made in the mating halves of a cam-and- groove hose coupling to prevent rapid separation of the halves in the event that the cam levers are released while the fluid in the hose is pressurized. This modification can be duplicated on almost any commercially available...

Briefs : Medical
Using Electronic Noses To Detect Tumors During Neurosurgery

It has been proposed to develop special-purpose electronic noses and algorithms for processing the digitized outputs of the electronic noses for determining whether tissue exposed during neurosurgery is cancerous. At present, visual inspection by a surgeon is the only available...

Briefs : Medical
Producing Newborn Synchronous Mammalian Cells

A method and bioreactor for the continuous production of synchronous (same age) population of mammalian cells have been invented. The invention involves the attachment and growth of cells on an adhesive-coated porous membrane immersed in a perfused liquid culture medium in a microgravity analog...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Smaller, Lower-Power Fast-Neutron Scintillation Detectors

Scintillation-based fast-neutron detectors that are smaller and less power-hungry than mainstream scintillation-based fast-neutron detectors are undergoing development. There are numerous applications for such detectors in monitoring fast-neutron fluxes from nuclear reactors, nuclear...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Particle-Charge Spectrometer

An instrument for rapidly measuring the electric charges and sizes (from ≈1 to ≈100 μm) of airborne particles is undergoing development. Conceived for monitoring atmospheric dust particles on Mars, instruments like this one could also be used on Earth to monitor natural and artificial aerosols in diverse indoor...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Rotationally Vibrating Electric-Field Mill

A proposed instrument for measuring a static electric field would be based partly on a conventional rotating- split-cylinder or rotating-split-sphere electric-field mill. However, the design of the proposed instrument would overcome the difficulty, encountered in conventional rotational field mills, of...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Estimating Hardness From the USDC Tool-Bit Temperature Rise

A method of real-time quantification of the hardness of a rock or similar material involves measurement of the temperature, as a function of time, of the tool bit of an ultrasonic/sonic drill corer (USDC) that is being used to drill into the material. The method is based on the idea...

Briefs : Information Technology
Automated Production of Movies on a Cluster of Computers

A method of accelerating and facilitating production of video and film motion- picture products, and software and generic designs of computer hardware to implement the method, are undergoing development. The method provides for automation of most of the tedious and repetitive tasks...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
FIDO-Class Development Rover

A report describes a rover-type robotic wheeled vehicle recently built for use as a testbed for development of software for future rover-type vehicles. This vehicle is a derivative of the Field Integrated Design and Operations (FIDO) rover, which is a prototype Mars- exploration rover that also serves as a...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Tone-Based Command of Deep Space Probes Using Ground Antennas

A document discusses a technique for enabling the reception of spacecraft commands at received signal levels as much as three orders of magnitude below those of current deep space systems. Tone-based commanding deals with the reception of commands that are sent in the form of precise...

NASA Tech Needs
High-End Computing Resources to Pioneer the Future in Space Exploration, Scientific Discovery, and Aeronautics Research

As an agency, NASA invests a significant amount of resources in the development and advancement of highend computing (HEC) resources and associated technologies to support all of its missions. The demand for HEC resources has...

Techs for License
Platform Technology for Electromechanical Position Sensor

This technology provides an efficient and cost-effective way to measure absolute position in one or two dimensions using a new Point Coupled Linear Transformer (PCLT). The PCLT detects movement and position on flat or curved surfaces. The nature of its design provides the sensor with...

Techs for License
Dispelling Light Sources

Philips is offering an innovative technology to dispel humans (and animals) from an area where they are unwanted. The new and patented dispelling light source (DLS) concept is based on disturbance of humans and/or animals using photosensitive stimuli. When switching a DLS system to the specifically programmed flickering...

NASA Tech Needs
Gripping Hand or Chuck Technology for Automated Applications

A company is seeking unique technologies for automated hand, chuck, and grip product assembly applications (not CNC machining). Multiple sizes of gripping device are acceptable for different sized parts. The chuck or hand technology should be general purpose in nature, and show...

NASA Tech Needs
Natural Technology for Food Preservation

Technologies are sought that will provide a natural method for extending shelf life, the prevention of food deterioration (oxidation and/or spoilage), and growth of pathogenic micro-organisms along the full chain of fresh or processed food. The solution could be effective at any stage, from feedstock to...

Interview with Bill Thigpen, Engineering Branch Chief of NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division

As Engineering Branch Chief for NASA's Advanced Supercomputing Division, Bill Thigpen led the team that built and deployed the 10,240-processor Columbia supercomputer in just 120 days. Listed as one of the world's fastest and most powerful...

Articles : Electronics & Computers
Getting Real-Time Performance From A Full-Featured OS

Spend a few minutes at your local electronics store and it's obvious — the mobile phone is a device that far surpasses its original intent. With respect to functionality, today's mobile phone goes well beyond the ability to make calls and store phone numbers. It also synchs up with your...

Articles : Motion Control
Selecting the Optimal Vision Equipment to Meet Automation Needs

Solving a machine vision application, whether it involves quality inspection, part verification or any number of additional tasks, requires taking several factors into consideration. The most important part of this process is analyzing the target object and its inspection...

Articles : Motion Control
Machine Vision Advances Benefit Motion Applications

Machine vision systems are playing an increasingly important role in many industrial applications, whether it is counting parts on an assembly line or examining surfaces for defects. Improvements in computing power, optics, connectivity, and software are allowing vision systems to be deployed...

Articles : Motion Control
Vision Advances Improve Optical Inspection

Recent advances in motion control and machine vision technologies present tremendous opportunities for Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) systems. Thanks to recent developments in these fundamental building block technologies, today’s AOI systems can carry out inspections with a higher resolution and...

Application Briefs : Imaging
Cognex Machine Vision System Helps Meister Reduce Part Defects

The Meister Group, a Belgian industrial group supplying the automobile market, successfully deployed Cognex’s machine vision system to help its robotic assembly cell sort out defective parts. The result has been a significant decline in part defect rates and a six-month payback on...

Application Briefs : Imaging
IDS Camera Automates Inspection

Until now, machine-based surface inspection methods have checked visual quality by means of direct or transmitted light in conjunction with a camera system. When it comes to the automated inspection of reflective and smooth surfaces, however, these methods involve problems. The resulting reflections need to be...

Linear Positioning Stage

The Slipstream Series from LM76 (East Longmeadow, MA) 1 linear stage features 0.2mm/300mm accuracy and 0.1mm repeatability. Available in travel lengths to 6 meters, the precision stage has T-Slots on three sides for installation and/or accessories. The linear stage is ideal for robotics, pick-and-place, assembly,...

Piezo Motor

The P-653 piezo motor from Physik Instrumente (Auburn, MA) is smaller than other miniature linear stages and provides higher velocity and resolution. The linear motor system comprises only four parts and provides speeds of up to 200 mm/sec (8in./sec).

Variable Frequency Drive

Lenze-AC Tech (Uxbridge, MA) has introduced the enhanced SMVector NEMA1 variable frequency drive, in power ratings to 30 hp. The drive’s increased capabilities include an additional programmable digital input, terminals for RS-485 communications, and an enhanced keypad.

Linear Positioning Stage

The DR (dual profile rail) positioning stages from H2W Technologies (Valencia, CA) provide travel lengths to 160in. (4m). These wide footprint (to 15.6 in/396 mm) brushless linear motor stages handle loads up to 442lb (200Kg), continuous force to 445lb (1978N), high resolution to 0.00004in.(1 micron), velocity up to...

Brushless DC Motor

Maxon Motor (Fall River, MA) is launching a range of flat brushless DC motors with integrated electronics. The EC 20 flat, EC 32 flat and EC 45 flat motors with integrated electronics reduce the user’s need for control input to the absolute minimum.

Infrared camera

FLIR Systems Inc. (Boston, MA) has introduced the ThermoVision A320G infrared camera for machine vision applications. The A320G is reportedly the only infrared camera designed to be compatible with GigE Vision and supports the GenICam protocol for easy integration with digital cameras.

Motion Control Software

ACS Motion Control (Plymouth, MN) has enhanced its motion control software to support the IEC61131-3 programming language. Designated Application Development Kit (ADK) 6.0, the PLC Open compliant control software allows users to program using any of the five languages in addition to ACSPL+.


The HC20 encoder from Dynapar (Gurnee, IL), for brushless servo and step motor applications, is capable of up to 2,500 pulses per revolution, and is available with commutation tracks for 4, 6, or 8-pole variants of brushless motors. The encoder has direct-read non-interpolated technology that stems from a custom phased array ASIC.

Multi-Rib Belt

The PolyVee belt driven roller and RollerDrive from Interroll (Wilmington, NC) provides reliable torque transmission up to 300 percent higher than traditional O-rings. Unlike other multi-rib belts, the PolyVee belt features a flexible core that allows it to be applied without any tensioning device. In addition, the PolyVee belt...

Question of the Week
Would You Ride in a Flying Car?