Special Coverage

NASA Supercomputer Simulations Reveal 'Noisy' Aerodynamics
Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris
Soft Robot “Walks” on Any Terrain
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Using Microwaves to Produce High-Quality Graphene
Transducer-Actuator Systems for On-Machine Measurements and Automatic Part Alignment
Wide-Area Surveillance Using HD LWIR Uncooled Sensors
Heavy Lift Wing in Ground (WIG) Cargo Flying Boat
Technique Provides Security for Multi-Robot Systems
Bringing New Vision to Laser Material Processing Systems
NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space

High-Voltage, Asymmetric-Waveform Generator

The shapes of waveforms generated by commercially available analytical separation devices, such as some types of mass spectrometers and differential mobility spectrometers are, in general, inadequate and result in resolution degradation in output spectra. A waveform generator was designed that would be able to circumvent these shortcomings. It is capable of generating an asymmetric waveform, having a peak amplitude as large as 2 kV and frequency of several megahertz, which can be applied to a capacitive load. In the original intended application, the capacitive load would consist of the drift plates in a differential-mobility spectrometer. The main advantage to be gained by developing the proposed generator is that the shape of the waveform is made nearly optimum for various analytical devices requiring asymmetric-waveform such as differential-mobility spectrometers. In addition, this waveform generator could easily be adjusted to modify the waveform in accordance with changed operational requirements for differential-mobility spectrometers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Capacitors, High voltage systems, Spectroscopy, Switches, Capacitors, High voltage systems, Spectroscopy, Switches, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Group-III Nitride Field Emitters

Field-emission devices (cold cathodes) having low electron affinities can be fabricated through lattice- mismatched epitaxial growth of nitrides of elements from group III of the periodic table. Field emission of electrons from solid surfaces is typically utilized in vacuum microelectronic devices, including some display devices. The present field-emission devices and the method of fabricating them were developed to satisfy needs to reduce the cost of fabricating field emitters, make them compatible with established techniques for deposition of and on silicon, and enable monolithic integration of field emitters with silicon-based driving circuitry.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Electronic equipment, Electronic equipment, Displays, Displays, Fabrication
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Magic-T Junction Using Microstrip/Slotline Transitions

An improved broadband planar magic-T junction that incorporates microstrip/slotline transitions has been developed. In comparison with a prior broadband magic-T junction incorporating microstrip/slotline transitions, this junction offers superior broadband performance. In addition, because this junction is geometrically simpler and its performance is less affected by fabrication tolerances, the benefits of the improved design can be realized at lower fabrication cost. There are potential uses for junctions like this one in commercial microwave communication receivers, radar and polarimeter systems, and industrial microwave instrumentation.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Connectors and terminals, Waveguides, Connectors and terminals, Waveguides, Fabrication
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Improved Gas Filling and Sealing of an HC-PCF

An improved packaging approach has been devised for filling a hollow-core photonic-crystal fiber (HC-PCF) with a gas, sealing the HC-PCF to retain the gas, and providing for optical connections and, optionally, a plumbing fitting for changing or augmenting the gas filling. Gas-filled HC-PCFs can be many meters long and have been found to be attractive as relatively compact, lightweight, rugged alternatives to conventional gas-filled glass cells for use as molecular-resonance frequency references for stabilization of lasers in some optical-metrology, lidar, optical-communication, and other advanced applications. Prior approaches to gas filling and sealing of HC-PCFs have involved, variously, omission of any attempt to connectorize the PCF, connectorization inside a vacuum chamber (an awkward and expensive process), or temporary exposure of one end of an HC-PCF to the atmosphere, potentially resulting in contamination of the gas filling. Prior approaches have also involved, variously, fusion splicing of HC-PCFs with other optical fibers or other termination techniques that give rise to Fresnel reflections of about 4 percent, which results in output intensity noise.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Fiber optics, Fiber optics, Gases, Refractory materials, Reliability, Reliability
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Thermal Spray Formation of Polymer Coatings

This innovation forms a sprayable polymer film using powdered precursor materials and an in-process heating method. This device directly applies a powdered polymer onto a substrate to form an adherent, mechanically-sound, and thickness-regulated film. The process can be used to lay down both fully dense and porous, e.g., foam, coatings. This system is field-deployable and includes power distribution, heater controls, polymer constituent material bins, flow controls, material transportation functions, and a thermal spray apparatus.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Polymers
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Embedded Computing Options Meet Rugged Industrial Requirements

While industrial applications typically require high levels of reliability, availability, ruggedness, and longevity, there often is a set of unique system requirements dependent upon the specific goals of the system. For instance, an industrial automation application may call for a particular I/O interface or the ability to support custom control software.

Posted in: Articles, Electronics & Computers, Automation
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Making More-Complex Molecules Using Superthermal Atom/Molecule Collisions

A method of making more-complex molecules from simpler ones has emerged as a by-product of an experimental study in outer-space atom/ surface collision physics. The subject of the study was the formation of CO2 molecules as a result of impingement of O atoms at controlled kinetic energies upon cold surfaces onto which CO molecules had been adsorbed. In this study, the O/CO system served as a laboratory model, not only for the formation of CO2 but also for the formation of other compounds through impingement of rapidly moving atoms upon molecules adsorbed on such cold interstellar surfaces as those of dust grains or comets. By contributing to the formation of increasingly complex molecules, including organic ones, this study and related other studies may eventually contribute to understanding of the origins of life.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials, Carbon dioxide, Fabrication, Test procedures
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Image Sensors Provide Mission-Critical Data for Space Flight

Kodak CCD image sensors
Eastman Kodak, Image Sensor Solutions
Rochester, NY
585-722-4385
www.kodak.com/go/imagers

Kodak digital technology was used on the Space Shuttle Discovery, which was launched on May 28, to capture critical images and help safeguard the well-being of shuttle astronauts during re-entry back to Earth. The image sensors are a key component of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), an inflight imaging system attached to the end of a 50-foot robotic arm used by shuttle astronauts to scan the underside of the orbiter for possible damage before landing.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Imaging, Sensors, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Sensors and actuators, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Sensors and actuators, Data management, Spacecraft
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Image of Spacecraft Landing on Mars Captured by Image Sensors

e2v CCD image sensors
e2v technologies plc
Elmsford, NY
914-592-6050
www.e2v.com

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is currently on Mars using the probe’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument to gather data on the planet’s climate, composition, and surface features. On May 25, 2008, e2v CCD image sensors incorporated into the HiRISE captured an image of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander suspended from its parachute, as the lander successfully arrived on Mars. This is the first time a spacecraft has captured an image of another spacecraft landing on a planetary body. HiRISE normally points downwards, but the whole orbiter was tilted up in order to capture the image of the lander as it approached Mars.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Imaging, Sensors, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft
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NASA Awards 2007 Software of the Year

Software from Jet Propulsion Laboratory for detecting planets outside our solar system, and from Ames Research Center for defining safety margins for fiery spacecraft re-entries have been named co-winners of the 2007 NASA Software of the Year Award.

The NASA Software of the Year competition was initiated in 1994, and rewards outstanding software developed by the agency. The competition is sponsored by the NASA Chief Engineer, with technical support from NASA’s In ventions and Contributions Board. For more information on the 2007 winners and runners-up, click here.

Posted in: Articles, Software, Calibration, Design processes, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Optics, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Optics, Product development
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