Special Coverage

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
Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines

Return-Link Processor PCI Card

Relative to prior return-link circuitry, this card is smaller, less power-hungry, higher performance, more versatile, and much cheaper.

The return-link processor card (RLP) performs all of the fundamental data-processing functions involved in the return of satellite telemetry, in real time at rates up to 400 Mb/s, using industry-standard interface circuitry and connectors with standard sizes and shapes. Previously, four cards, each containing a central processing unit (CPU), were needed to do what the RLP now does. CPU-based cards are complex; are expensive to build, operate, and maintain; are susceptible to malfunction; and require a great deal of power and cooling.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Connectors and terminals, Integrated circuits, Satellite communications, Telemetry, Connectors and terminals, Integrated circuits, Satellite communications, Telemetry, Product development, Reliability, Reliability

GFSSP — Program for Analyzing Flows in a Complex Network

The Generalized Fluid System Simulation Program (GFSSP) version 2.01 is a general-purpose computer program for analyzing steady-state and time-dependent flowrates, pressures, temperatures, and concentrations in a complex flow network. The program is capable of modeling phase changes, compressibility, mixture thermodynamics, and external body forces, such as gravity and centrifugal.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Computational fluid dynamics, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamics

Optically Transparent Patch Antennas

Antennas on transparent films can be bent to conform to curved supports.

Optically transparent patch antennas have been invented for use in communication systems at frequencies of the order of a few gigahertz. These antennas can be mounted on windows of buildings and vehicles, on computer video monitors, on solar photovoltaic panels, and on other convenient supports; this is an advantage in situations in which the reuse of such supports for radio communication is dictated by a lack of room for adding separate antenna-supporting structures. Another advantage of the optically transparent patch antennas is that they weigh less than conventional antennas do.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Wireless communication systems, Antennas, Wireless communication systems, Materials properties, Lightweighting

Improved Thermoelectric Converter Units and Power Generators

Rugged, compact TCUs could be used to provide power or cooling in numerous applications.

Improved thermoelectric converter units (TCUs) and radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) that contain them have been undergoing development for use as small, lightweight sources of electricity at potentials up to 5 V and power at levels up to 40 mW. These RTGs are intended primarily for supplying power to operate electronic equipment in outer space or at remote or uninhabitable locations on Earth; terrestrial applications could include monitoring of nuclear-waste-storage facilities, meteorological monitoring at polar locations, deep sea exploration, and monitoring of geological activity inside volcanic craters and at underground locations.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Electric power, Performance upgrades, Product development, Electro-thermal engines

Software for Parallel Adaptive Refinement of Meshes

A software library has been developed for adaptive refinement of unstructured (that is, irregular) tetrahedral or triangular meshes that define two- or three-dimensional coordinates or volume elements used in parallel (that is, multiprocessor) finite-element or finite-volume computations. This library contains a suite of well-designed and efficiently implemented software modules that perform the operations of typical parallel adaptive-mesh-refinement (AMR) processes. An especially notable one of these operations is mesh quality control, typically guided by a local-error estimator, during successive parallel adaptive refinements. Another is balancing of computational loads among parallel processors. The library is robust and is scalable to different numbers of processors. The software in this library was developed in Fortran 90, plus a message-passing interface (MPI) sublibrary. The design of this library supports code efficiency, modularity, and portability. At present, the library is in use on a Cray T3E and SGI Origin computers and on a Beowulf-class cluster of personal computers.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Software, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Computer software / hardware, Computer software and hardware, Quality control, Quality control

A 3D Navier-Stokes CFD Code for Analysis of Turbomachinery

This code can be used to model complex, multiple-path flows.

The ADPAC software is a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code for analysis of flows in turbomachines. The outstanding feature of ADPAC is the ability to solve the Navier-Stokes equations for complex three-dimensional (3D) flow fields that include multiple flow paths, and the modeling of which typically involves multiple computational grid blocks. In addition, ADPAC can handle coupled calculations in which some portions of models are rotating and some are not, as in the case of the rotating blades and stationary vanes of a turbomachine. ADPAC was developed especially for use in analyzing the performances of short-duct, ultrahigh-bypass-ratio turbofan engines, both as uninstalled and as installed; however, ADPAC is applicable to a very broad range of other turbomachines and of other flow systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Analysis methodologies, Computational fluid dynamics

Sensor Webs

Notable features would include flexibility of deployment, low power consumption, and low cost.

Sensor webs are developmental collections of sensor pods that could be scattered over land or water areas or other regions of interest to gather data on spatial and temporal patterns of relatively slowly changing physical, chemical, or biological phenomena in those regions. Each sensor pod would be a node in a data-gathering/ data-communication network that would span a region of interest. Each sensor pod would contain two modules: (1) a transducer module that would interact with the environment to gather the desired data and (2) a communication module.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Data exchange, Sensors and actuators, Wireless communication systems, Data exchange, Sensors and actuators, Wireless communication systems, Environmental testing

Microplasmic Coating Shows High Resistance to Wear, Heat and Corrosion

An innovative electrochemical micro-arc oxidation process improves on the traditional method of anodizing aluminum and aluminum alloys.

The process of anodizing, or controlled oxidation, of aluminum and aluminum alloys is more than seven decades old. The primary intent of anodizing aluminum and aluminum-alloy parts is to protect the highly reactive surface against corrosion in aqueous environments, such as humid air and sea water. Because the anodic coating can be produced in a variety of colors, painted anodized parts are used in architectural applications. Furthermore, because the anodization process produces a hard ceramic coating, many times harder than that of the substrate from which it is formed, anodic coatings are also used to protect aluminum parts from abrasion, especially sand abrasion.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Aluminum, Aluminum alloys, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Corrosion, Wear

Electrodialysis To Remove Ammonium Ions From Wastewater

A simple treatment removes most of the ammonium content.

Electrodialysis has been shown to be an effective means for removing ammonium ions from wastewater without use of consumable chemicals and without adding other substances to the treated water. Provided that continuing efforts to develop efficient electrodialysis equipment prove successful, it should be possible to apply this treatment principle to wastewater streams to be recycled in life-support systems for spacecraft and other closed habitats. Effluents from some industrial processes that generate high concentration of ammonium ions may also be treatable by this principle.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Waste management, Water treatment, Life support systems, Spacecraft

Hybrisol Rocket Engines

These engines offer potential safety and cost advantages over solid-fuel engines.

"Hybrisol" denotes a proposed rocket engine that would contain hybrid and solid-propellant parts within a single combustion chamber. ["Hybrid" as used here denotes a type of rocket engine in which a solid fuel is burned by use of a liquid or gaseous oxidizer and the flow of the oxidizer can be throttled to control the engine. Unlike conventional solid rocket propellants, a solid fuel for a hybrid rocket engine can be made relatively inert in the absence of the oxidizer and therefore presents little hazard of explosion or inadvertent ignition.] Inside a hybrisol rocket engine, there would be two concentric tubular energy-storage layers: an outer layer of conventional solid rocket propellant and an inner layer of solid hybrid fuel (see figure).

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Mechanics, Solid propellants, Product development, Hybrid engines, Rocket engines

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