Tech Briefs

RFID System for Management of High-Risk Materials

This system safeguards the management of sensitive items in storage, transportation, and disposition.

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 accountability, safety, security, and worker and public health.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors
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Wireless Damage Location Sensing System

The wireless, passive SansEC sensor detects package tampering, medication levels, temperature, and spoilage.

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 of contents, and changes caused by spoilage. Tampering can also be detected. The unique design of this thin-film sensor allows many of these properties to be measured with the sensor external to the container/package. Fill levels can be measured without the need to open the container. At the core of the technology is the NASA award-winning SansEC sensor, which is damage-resilient and environmentally friendly to manufacture and use. The sensors use a magnetic field response measurement acquisition device to provide power to the sensors and to acquire physical property measurements from them.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Wireless communication systems, Sensors and actuators, Wireless communication systems, Medical equipment and supplies, Pharmaceuticals, Reliability, Reliability
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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 mandrels are therefore costly when they are available. Their sizes are limited to 1-2 meters. Two-step or double replication is well known in the art. In the traditional method, a specific polymer resin system with fillers is used to replicate an existing concave mirror (designated as “mother”) to produce a convex intermediate designated as “daughter.” The same material is then used to replicate the daughter, creating a third-generation concave that is designated as “granddaughter.”

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Mirrors, Fabrication, Resins
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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, low-cost method of polishing and coating a one-piece combustion device using electro-polishing (EP) and ALD was demonstrated in this work. By combining material components made using Selective Laser Melting (SLM) with the process of EP and the application of uniform thin-film coatings using ALD, a complete, scalable manufacturing process can be developed by which high-precision, complex components can be produced at a fraction of their current cost. SLM technology has shown the potential to reduce production costs by 70% or more for complex propulsion component fabrication compared to traditional manufacturing techniques.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Lasers, Lasers, Additive manufacturing, Coatings Colorants and Finishes, Coatings, colorants, and finishes
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Machine Vision System

This system rapidly recognizes and locates surface shapes in range images.

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 point is in a three-dimensional space. Both range images and the more conventional intensity images from digital cameras have been used in the computer vision research community to determine the pose of observed objects or surface shapes. “Pose” refers to a complete description of an object's position and orientation. For a rigid object, this requires six numbers — such as X, Y, Z, pitch, yaw, and roll — or six equivalent coordinates. The previous methods for pose estimation all suffer from either a lack of generality or from time inefficiency.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging, Artificial intelligence, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Artificial intelligence, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Product development
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Lock-In Imaging System for Detecting Disturbances in Fluid

The aircraft-based technology can detect irregular motion of transparent air.

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 very low, and the vortices and air turbulence near the ground can cause the airplane to become unstable. Because the vortices and turbulence are just an irregular motion of transparent air, visual detection is very difficult. The NASA Langley invention is designed to detect the irregular motion of transparent air in the front-flight path from a few hundred meters to kilometers.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Product development, Turbulence
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Reducing Inaccuracies in Force/Haptic Feedback Systems

This novel algorithm automatically compensates for the errors introduced by physical factors, enabling the control system to adjust the applied force accurately.

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 specific point based on very accurate measurements. However, because the force instrumentation often cannot be placed directly at the point of interest, a mechanical assembly is used, linking the force transducer to the target point. Unfortunately, this mechanical assembly introduces inaccuracies due to its own forces of gravity, friction, and inertia.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Computer simulation, Flight control systems, Flight control systems, Reliability, Reliability
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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 that help the scientist visualize the simulations can be of tremendous aid.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Computational fluid dynamics, Mathematical models, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization
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Curved Sensor Improves Image Quality Captured with Digital Cameras

This sensor demonstrates significantly sharper images and a practical approach for curving off-the-shelf image sensors.

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, head-mounted displays, and advancements in autonomous vehicle navigation.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging, Optics, Sensors and actuators, Optics, Sensors and actuators, Product development
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Electrochemical Method for Removing Pollutants from Water

This method removes even extremely low levels of organic contaminants such as pesticides, chemical waste products, and pharmaceuticals.

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 on an electrochemical process to selectively remove organic contaminants such as pesticides, chemical waste products, and pharmaceuticals, even when these are present in small, yet dangerous concentrations. The approach also addresses key limitations of conventional electrochemical separation methods such as acidity fluctuations and losses in performance that can happen as a result of competing surface reactions.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Water treatment, Energy conservation, Research and development, Chemicals
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