August 2017

News : Materials
From Seawater to Drinking Water? Nanotubes Upgrade Desalination Efforts

Looking to nature for inspiration, scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Northeastern University have used carbon nanotubes to mimic the water-filtering proteins of the body. The super-thin graphene cylinders improve water desalination efforts and...

Question of the Week
Will carbon nanotubes play a role in the next generation of commercial water filters?

Our lead INSIDER story today featured a demonstration of carbon-nanotube water filters. What do you think? Will carbon nanotubes play a role in the next generation of commercial water filters?

INSIDER : Motion Control
Harmonic Air Motor Offers Very High Efficiency
Harmonic Air Motor Offers Very High Efficiency

Currently available air motors have many advantages over electric motors. They are more compact, lighter-weight, instantly reversible without sparking, create no heat buildup, are undamaged by...

Harmonic Air Motor Offers Very High Efficiency
INSIDER : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris

Currently there are about 500,000 pieces of human-made debris in space, orbiting our planet at speeds up to 17,500 miles per hour. This debris poses a threat to satellites, space vehicles, and astronauts aboard those vehicles. However, cleaning up the debris is problematic. For example, suction cups don’t...

INSIDER : Robotics, Automation & Control
Wireless Magnetic Field Powers Folding Robots

A team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University has created battery-free folding robots that are capable of complex, repeatable movements powered and controlled through a...

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Sound-Off: What is Live Tooling?

When features need to be removed from a product, manufacturers often use a subtractive process known as CNC machining. In a Tech Briefs presentation last week, engineer Tony Holtz made a case for a more “Rapid” method.

News : Semiconductors & ICs
Perspiration Power: Biofuel Cell Reacts to Sweat
Perspiration Power: Biofuel Cell Reacts to Sweat

Engineers from the University of California – San Diego have developed stretchable fuel cells that extract energy from an often-unpleasant source: sweat. The flexible UCSD-developed devices...

Perspiration Power: Biofuel Cell Reacts to Sweat
Question of the Week
Have you faced internal hurdles when trying to introduce additive manufacturing?

This week's "Sound-Off" article featured advice on how to bring a 3D-printing approach to the organization. What do you think? Have you faced internal hurdles when trying to introduce additive manufacturing?

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
The Next 3D-Printed Part: A Hack?

See what’s new on Tech Briefs, including a three-layer way of securing the growing number of 3D-printed parts being placed in today’s vehicles and airplanes.

INSIDER : Energy
Turning Homes into Power Stations
Turning Homes into Power Stations

A new solar project, called SUNRISE, will develop printed photovoltaic cells and new manufacturing processes that can be used to construct solar energy products in India. These will then be integrated into...

Turning Homes into Power Stations
INSIDER : Energy
Method to Revolutionize Battery Recharging

University of Sydney researchers have developed a three-stage method to recharge zinc-air batteries. While zinc-air batteries are currently used as an energy source in hearing aids and some film cameras and railway signal devices, their widespread use has been hindered by the fact that, up until now,...

News : Medical
Tissue Repair, With a Single Touch

Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Ohio State’s College of Engineering have developed a new kind of TNT — a "Tissue Nanotransfection" device that generates specific cell types for treatment within a patient’s own body. The “cuff-link”-sized technology supports the...

Question of the Week : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Are you concerned about the integrity of 3D-printed parts?

This week's INSIDER story features a new method for verifying the integrity of critical 3D-printed parts, from brakes to aircraft components. What do you think? Are you concerned about the integrity of 3D-printed parts?

Q&A : Photonics/Optics
Q&A: aBeam Technologies' Dr. Keiko Munechika Offers New Ideas in Nano-Optics

Dr. Munechika — along with Alexander Kosh­elev and Giuseppe Calafiore at aBeam Technologies, and Stefano Cabrini at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — is developing a process that would enable widespread adoption of nano-optic...

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Sound-Off: How to Sell Additive Manufacturing to the Organization

How do you convince program managers to take an additive manufacturing approach to tooling? A 3D-printing pro shares lessons he learned about how to overcome obstacles from leadership.

News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Secure 3D Printing: 'Three-Layer' System Protects Parts from Hackers

A 3D printer is essentially a small embedded computer — and can be exploited like one.

Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and Rutgers University have developed a “three-layer” way of certifying that an additively manufactured part has not been...

News : Imaging
New Software Spots Eye Contact
New Software Spots Eye Contact

Did you see? New software developed at Saarland University turns any camera into an eye-contact detector. Why is it so valuable to identify eye contact? We spoke with the inventor about new kinds of...

New Software Spots Eye Contact
INSIDER : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Sprayable Sensing Network Monitors Structural Health

Sprayed sensors were developed that can be networked to render real-time information on the health status of a structure, detecting hidden flaws. The sprayed nanocomposite sensors and an ultrasound actuator are used to actively detect the health condition of the structure to which they are...

INSIDER : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Soft, Stretchy Fabric Sensors Enable Wearable Robots

A highly sensitive, soft, capacitive sensor made of silicone and fabric that moves and flexes with the human body can unobtrusively and accurately detect movement. The technology consists of a thin sheet of silicone sandwiched between two layers of silver-plated, conductive fabric forming a...

Question of the Week
Will water-based propulsion support space missions?

Our lead INSIDER story this week features a micro-propulsion system that uses water to maneuver nanosatellites. What do you think? Will water-based propulsion support space missions?

News : Propulsion
The Newest Way to Propel Nanosatellites? Water.
The Newest Way to Propel Nanosatellites? Water.

Although maneuvering nanosatellites in space is a complex procedure, a new micro-propulsion method features the simplest of ingredients: water.

The Newest Way to Propel Nanosatellites? Water.
News : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Sound-Off: How Does ‘Cold Forming’ Impact a Part?

The manufacturing process of "cold forming" applies force to a metal as it is staged in a die. The technology, used originally in the early 1900s to create artillery shells, supports the creation of a variety of sophisticated, small parts, including fasteners, pins, and screws. But how do the...

News : Robotics, Automation & Control
Sound-Off: How Do Collaborative Robots Spot Human Operators?

In a “speed and separation” manufacturing scenario, a safe distance must be maintained between a collaborative robot and a human operator. When the gap reaches below a specific threshold, the cobot then initiates a monitored stop. But how does the robot “see” the human?

Question of the Week : Energy
Will "Electric Clothing" appeal to consumers?

Last week's INSIDER lead story featured an ultra-thin energy harvester from Vanderbilt University. Made from materials five thousand times thinner than a human hair, the technology may someday be woven into clothing to power personal devices. What do you think? Will "Electric Clothing" appeal to...

News : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Researcher Sees the Power of Solar Glasses
Researcher Sees the Power of Solar Glasses

New eyeglasses from Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology generate solar power. Featuring semitransparent organic solar cells, the eyewear powers a microprocessor and two small displays...

Researcher Sees the Power of Solar Glasses
News : Medical
New 3D printing method promises superior medical implants for millions

For the millions of people every year who have or need medical devices implanted, a new advancement in 3D printing technology developed at the University of Florida promises significantly quicker implantation of devices that are stronger, less expensive, more flexible, and...

News : Medical
Study points way to better implantable medical devices

Medical devices implanted in the body for drug delivery, sensing, or tissue regeneration usually come under fire from the host's immune system. Defense cells work to isolate material they consider foreign to the body, building up a wall of dense scar tissue around the devices, which...

News : Medical
Flexible glass made for tiny medical devices

Brigham Young University researchers have developed new glass technology that could add a new level of flexibility to the microscopic world of medical devices.

News : Electronics & Computers
Writing with Light: An ‘Etch A Sketch’ Electrical Circuit
Writing with Light: An ‘Etch A Sketch’ Electrical Circuit

Physicists from Washington State University (WSU) have used lasers to draw conductive circuits into a crystal. The achievement demonstrates a new kind of transparent,...

Writing with Light: An ‘Etch A Sketch’ Electrical Circuit
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain

Traditional robots often feature isolated mechanical joints. These discrete components limit a rover’s ability to traverse sand, stone, and other challenging environments. A team at the University of California San Diego has demonstrated a more flexible option: a soft robot that lifts its legs over...

Briefs : Motion Control
High-Temperature Actuators Bend as They “Breathe”

Extreme temperatures are hard for mechanical components to endure without degrading. To address the problem, researchers at MIT worked with several other universities to develop a new way to make actuators that could be used in exceptionally hot environments.

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D-Printed Tensegrity Object Can Change Shape

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a way to use 3D printers to create objects capable of dramatic expansion. The technology could someday be used in applications ranging from space missions to biomedical devices. The new 3D-printed objects use tensegrity, a...

Articles : Motion Control
Reduce Compressed Air Costs with Proper Air Cylinder Sizing

There may be no stronger ally of electrical power utilities than industrial size air compressors, as they drone on every day, taking atmospheric air and transforming it into useful energy. Countless kilowatt hours are gobbled up in a mechanical conversion of electrical power into...

Articles : Motion Control
Energy Management Through Direct Drive Servo Technology

Direct drive servo motor and drive technology has many advantages. It reduces an axis’ parts count, mechanical losses, and often its objectionable noise. What’s more, it also increases the machine’s efficiency, lowering operation cost for the user due to its inertia ratio as compared...

Articles : Motion Control
Smart Actuators Add Brains to Automation Brawn

Actuators have always been on the frontline of automation, providing the “push and pull” that extends human capabilities to operate everything from delicate pick-and-place applications to 10-ton agricultural combines. Now, as the industrial world becomes increasingly digitized and connected, a...

Briefs : Motion Control
Flat, Triangular Modules Connect to Form Origami Robot

Origami robots are composed of thin structures that can fold and unfold to change shape. They are compact and lightweight, but have functional restrictions related to size, shape, and how many folds can be created. On the other hand, modular robots use large numbers of individual entities to...

Products : Motion Control
New Products: August 2017 Motion Design

Brushless AC Servo Motors

Allied Motion Technologies (Amherst, NY) introduced the HeiMotion™ Premium (HMP) brushless AC servo motor family. The motors, which have a 20,000+ hour life span, are available in five metric frame sizes with rated torque from 0.12 up to 14.4 Nm, and continuous shaft...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Straws Help Create Simple Robot Joints

Inspired by arthropod insects and spiders, Harvard professor George Whitesides and Alex Nemiroski, a former postdoctoral fellow in Whitesides’ Harvard lab, used ordinary plastic drinking straws to create a type of semi-soft robot capable of standing and walking. The team also created a robotic water...

Articles : Motion Control
Eliminate Interference from Converter Output

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) in frequency converters can be very problematic if not addressed properly in the initial design. EMC ensures the proper operation of devices to avoid negative electromagnetic interference (EMI) effects. Good design takes into account the control, design, and...

Briefs : Software
High-Speed Network Protocol for Faster, More Reliable Emergency Response

Anew network protocol — the Multi Node Label Routing (MNLR) protocol — was developed to improve the information flow between emergency responders at the scene of an incident and decision-makers at the office of emergency management.

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Conductive Particle Assembly Enables Creation of Two-Dimensional Electronic Circuits

One-dimensional conductive particle assembly holds promise for a variety of practical applications; in particular, for a new generation of electronic devices. Synthesis of such chains with programmable shapes outside a liquid environment has proven...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Omni Jaw 5™ Powered Protrusion Cutter

In many manufacturing and construction activities, it is frequently necessary to remove a protrusion of material from a component or from a substrate surface. These removal operations include clipping the head off a bolt, or removing a nut, rivet, weld bead, or temporary assembly alignment tab from a...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Low-Cost Chip Extends Life of Battery Sensors

A voltage detector chip was developed that requires only a few trillionths of a Watt (picowatts) to activate other circuits, enabling engineers to design sensors that continuously listen, without using power from a battery or mains. The result is smaller batteries, or a battery life that is extended,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene

Engineers have developed a simple method for producing high-quality graphene that can be used in next-generation electronic and energy devices. The method essentially bakes the compound in a microwave oven.

Briefs : Software
Custom Administration Reporting (gTracker)

A reporting tool was needed that could indicate the accuracy of search results by tracking the number of clicks required by users to find their desired search results. The application should also capture the number of times other links and like filtering components are clicked. The report should have...

Briefs : Green Design & Manufacturing
Process Produces Renewable Car Tires from Trees and Grasses

A team of researchers has invented a new technology to produce automobile tires from trees and grasses. Conventional car tires are viewed as environmentally unfriendly because they are predominantly made from fossil fuels. The car tires produced from biomass that includes trees and...

Briefs : Software
PathDroid

Android is the primary software platform for mobile, networked devices such as tablets and smartphones. These devices are increasingly used for safety-critical functions that require verification of correct and robust behavior of applications. Such software written for the Android operating system is hard to test because applications...

Articles : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Micromachined Sensors Monitor Train Rails and Predict Failures

Spinoff is NASA's annual publication featuring successfully commercialized NASA technology. This commercialization has contributed to the development of products and services in the fields of health and medicine, consumer goods, transportation, public safety, computer technology, and...

Briefs : Green Design & Manufacturing
Flood Dashboard 2.0

Google Maps and Google Earth allow the development of customized displays, but such displays must be constructed by a software developer. The Flood Dashboard allows non-technical users to utilize a simple Web form to build and present custom displays. It is a Ruby on Rails 4 application that allows users to build custom...

Briefs : Software
Enterprise Business Information System (EBIS) Data Warehouse Quality Inspector

A typical data warehouse may contain thousands of tables. Validating the data quality of all data warehouse content is an unmanageable and unmaintainable task if handled in an ad-hoc fashion. This software seeks to ensure that a data warehouse accurately reflects the...

Articles : Defense
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was created with a national sense of urgency in February 1958 amidst one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the Cold War and the already-accelerating pace of technology. In the months preceding the official authorization for the agency's...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D-Printed Heart-on-a-Chip with Integrated Sensors

The first entirely 3D-printed organ-on-a-chip with integrated sensing has been built by a fully automated digital manufacturing procedure. The 3D-printed heart-on-a-chip can be quickly fabricated and customized, allowing researchers to easily collect reliable data for short-term and longterm...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Wireless Tamper Detection Sensor and Sensing System

NASA's Langley Research Center researchers have developed a wireless, connection-free inductor capacitor sensor system that can be placed on or embedded in materials and structures to monitor for and detect damage. The sensors can also be used to detect package tampering and pilfering. This...

Briefs : Software
Network Geolocation Technology

A network geolocation technology (NGT) can be used to determine the physical location of a networked Internet user, as well as accurately determine if an Internet user is in fact in the metropolitan service area that the user claims as his/her location. NGT is based on the laws of physics, and operates independent...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Water-Saving Firefighting Nozzle

Fluorocarbon-based fire extinguishing agents are environmentally harmful since they cause depletion of the Earth's ozone layer. Fine Water Mist (FWM)-type systems have very favorable characteristics as replacements for existing Halon systems. Typically, these systems include nozzles for creating misting fluids...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Robotic System for 3D-Printing the Basic Structure of an Entire Building

Materials that can be produced by 3D printing include not just plastics, but metal, glass, and even food. A new system called a Digital Construction Platform (DCP) was developed that can 3D-print the basic structure of an entire building. Structures built with the system...

Briefs : Imaging
Linear Fresnel Spectrometer Chip with Gradient Line Grating

NASA's Langley Research Center has built a very small spectrometer by integrating a differential linear Fresnel lens onto an imaging chip. NASA is using the lens/chip in a very small spectrometer that will be mounted on the tires of a rover to analyze soil on the Moon or Mars. The...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Method of Manufacturing Convective Accelerometers

Miniaturization and integration of accelerometers in standard integrated circuit (IC) processes has been the topic of extensive research. In most cases, accelerometer structures involve a solid proof mass that is allowed to move under accelerating conditions. This approach has many disadvantages....

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Intelligent Displacement Sensor Deployment Using MTConnect Protocol over Ethernet

Quality measurements for design validation and certification requirements sometimes call for hundreds or thousands of sensors and actuators. Maintaining such a complex system is difficult, especially over an extended time period and inevitable personnel changes....

Briefs : Software
Multi-Dimensional Information Visualization Software

DiVisa is a multi-dimensional information visualization tool that en ables researchers to understand the behavior of network data.

Briefs : Green Design & Manufacturing
Ammonia Recovery System for Wastewater

NASA's Ammonia Recovery System for Wastewater was developed for potential use as part of the Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) on the International Space Station. The system uses an affordable media that is highly selective for ammonia. Ammonia concentrations in wastewater as high as...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Sandia Cooler

Heat exchangers are used for the transfer of heat between two or more media. The media may be separated by a solid wall so that they never mix, or they may be in direct contact. Heat exchangers may be used in HVAC systems, power plants, and mechanical devices and systems that require heat transfer. Examples of systems where heat...

Articles : Materials
Products of Tomorrow: August 2017
Products of Tomorrow: August 2017

This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that...

Products of Tomorrow: August 2017
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Ruck Dock Load Carriage Connector System

Soldiers, civilians engaged in activities such as hiking, and public safety personnel engaged in search and rescue missions all require reliable systems for the effective carriage of necessary equipment. The most simplistic backpacks and rucksacks often do not incorporate a frame or other rigid...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
4D Printing of Load-Bearing and Predictable Structures

Research is being performed in adding a fourth dimension to 3D printers — the dimension of time. This technique, called 4D printing, creates moveable and shape-variable objects, such as flat components, that can be folded into three-dimensional objects at a later point, or even objects...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
RFID System for Management of High-Risk Materials

For years, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has been used in a variety of applications, from passports to inventory tracking. Homeland security concerns have heightened the need for sensitive, real-time tracking of thousands of radioactive and hazardous material packages to ensure...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Wireless Damage Location Sensing System

NASA Langley Research Center researchers have developed a wireless, open-circuit SansEC (Sans Electrical Connections) sensor that can be used for pharmaceutical applications without the need for physical contact. Many attributes of a container can be monitored, such as liquid or powder levels, temperature...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Improved Two-Step Replication Process for Producing Precision Optical Mirrors

Production of precision optical mirrors by replication requires molds or mandrels of the complementary shape. For example, replicating a concave mirror requires a convex mandrel. Convex shapes are difficult to fabricate and test since they do not focus light. Convex...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) Coating of High-Precision Components Produced by Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) is being used as a means of coating various substrate materials with a variety of metallic and ceramic oxides for corrosion and thermal protection. The technology necessary to develop a state-of-the-art,...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Machine Vision System

A number of instruments have been built to obtain range images — a two-dimensional array of numbers that gives the depth of a scene along many directions from a central point in the instrument. Instead of measuring the brightness of many points in a scene, as in a television camera, these instruments measure where each...

Application Briefs : Materials
Ensuring Part Quality in Industrial Metal Additive Manufacturing
Concept Laser
Grapevine, TX
For more info click here

Now that metal additive manufacturing (AM) is creating fully functional industrial parts, many OEMs are taking a closer look at how the technology might support their individual production goals. Interest has...

Briefs : Imaging
Lock-In Imaging System for Detecting Disturbances in Fluid

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed an aircraft-based turbulence and vortex detection system. Turbulence and vortices in the front-flight path are very dangerous for airplanes. Especially when an airplane is approaching the airfield to land, the altitude near the airfield is...

Articles : Software
Using Formal Methods for Engineering Embedded Systems

Between 1985 and 1987, a radiation therapy device called the Therac-25 was involved in at least six incidents in which the device delivered massive overdoses of radiation. The patients involved suffered radiation burns and symptoms of radiation poisoning. Three of those patients eventually...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Reducing Inaccuracies in Force/Haptic Feedback Systems

Researchers at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center have developed a new technology to reduce inaccuracies in force/haptic feedback devices and systems. Used at NASA in aircraft simulations for force feedback pilot controls, these systems involve a servomotor applying precise force to a...

Briefs : Software
PLOT3D 4.1

PLOT3D is an interactive graphics program designed to help scientists visualize computational fluid dynamics (CFD) grids and solutions. Today, supercomputers and CFD algorithms can provide scientists with simulations of such highly complex phenomena that obtaining an understanding of the simulations has become a major problem. Tools...

Briefs : Imaging
Curved Sensor Improves Image Quality Captured with Digital Cameras

In dark environments, it is often difficult to get a clear, high-quality image. To address this problem, a method was developed for spherically curving the flat image sensors found in digital cameras. The curved sensors could be used to create better cameras for surveillance,...

Briefs : Green Design & Manufacturing
Electrochemical Method for Removing Pollutants from Water

When removing very dilute concentrations of pollutants from water, existing separation methods tend to be energy- and chemical-intensive. A new method was developed that could provide a selective alternative for removing even extremely low levels of unwanted compounds. The method relies...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Structural Health Monitoring System/Method Using Electroactive Polymer Fibers

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a novel polymer material that can be utilized as a real-time structural health monitoring sensor. The material is electroactive and generates a signal in response to a mechanical force. The material is also highly elastic,...

Products : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Product of the Month: August 2017

Harwin, Salem, NH, announced the SYCAMORE surface-mount socket that provides pin retention and durability for high-volume applications manufactured using automated systems. The capacitor's design features three points of contact, providing continuity and robustness. Key markets include gas detection systems,...

Briefs : Imaging
Algorithm Enables Five-Dimensional Imaging in Living Organisms

Researchers use fluorescent imaging to locate proteins and other molecules in cells and tissues by tagging the molecules with dyes that glow under certain kinds of light — the same principle behind “black light” images. Fluorescent imaging can help scientists and researchers...

News : Materials
Using Spider Silk, Surgeon Hits a Nerve

Christine Radtke, a Professor for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Austria’s MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, has 21 spiders. The silk obtained from the Tanzanian golden orb-weavers offers Radtke and her team a valuable material to repair nerve and tissue.