Tech Briefs

Functionally Graded Metal-Metal Composite Structures

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a functionally graded metal-metal composite structure. The structure is created using a method that avoids deleterious reactions between the different metal constituents, as would be observed via conventional melt processing. The results are unique alloy compositions and arrangements not typically available through conventional processing routes.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Compact, Portable Device for Structural Vibration Reduction

Tuned mass dampers are used worldwide to mitigate vibrations in structures like buildings and bridges where excessive movement can be alarming or even sickening to occupants. The vast majority are multi-ton devices that occupy an average of 1,000 square feet, and are complex and costly to install, tune, and maintain.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Robotic Inspector Traverses Water Pipes

Today's water distribution systems lose an average of 20 percent of their supply because of leaks. Current leak-detection systems are expensive and slow to operate, and they don't work well in systems that use wood, clay, or plastic pipes. A robotic system developed by researchers at MIT could provide a fast, inexpensive way to find even tiny leaks with pinpoint precision, no matter what the pipes are made of.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control
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Robotic Gripper Cleans Up Space Debris

Large amounts of existing space debris pose a threat to satellites, space vehicles, and astronauts aboard those vehicles. However, cleaning up the debris is problematic. For example, suction cups don't work in a vacuum, and traditional sticky substances like tape are largely useless because the chemicals they rely on can't withstand extreme temperature swings.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control
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Computational Tool Simplifies Creating Machines That Bend

Replacing rigid joints and linkages with mechanisms that bend offers a number of potential advantages, even as it makes designing devices more difficult. A computational design tool developed by Disney Research promises to make this transition from rigid to compliant mechanisms easier. The tool can take a design for a conventional, rigidly articulated device and automatically substitute parts that achieve the same function through flexibility, drawing from existing catalogs of compliant mechanisms.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control
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Electromagnetic Actuator Decouples Linear and Rotary Motions

A lightweight module for rapid, accurate, and versatile positioning of semiconductor chips features a novel electromechanical actuator that can move objects both linearly and rotationally. The technology was developed by researchers at the A*STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (A*STAR SIMTech) and National University of Singapore (SIMTech-NUS) Joint Lab.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control
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Wireless Magnetic Field Powers Folding Robots

Folding robots based on origami have emerged as an exciting new frontier of robotic design. However, they generally require onboard batteries or a wired connection to a power source, making them bulkier and clunkier than their paper inspiration and limiting their functionality. A team of researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has created battery-free folding robots that are capable of complex, repeatable movements powered and controlled through a wireless magnetic field.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control
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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 stalling or overloading, and supply extremely broad torque and speed range. Generally available commercial air motors, however, have only 5% to 20% of ideal efficiency. The Harmonic Air Motor developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has all these advantages of air motors, but also offers a proven efficiency more than 60% of ideal, higher low-end torque than available commercial air motors, and can be manufactured at lower cost.

Posted in: Briefs, Motion Control
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Optical Sensor for Unknown Gas Detection

Gas sensors are usually engineered to detect a specific molecule in one of many potential categories: toxic gases, combustible gases, and VOCs. A number of technologies, such as infrared, photoionization, catalytic, and electrochemical, are used to test for differing molecular species. Each method has specifications for resolution, sensitivity, temperature, and humidity range. Gas sensors are most useful when they have high sensitivity and flexibility in the gases they can detect.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors
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Occupancy Sensing Using Wi-Fi Routers

In 2015, commercial and residential buildings accounted for 40% of the energy consumption in the United States according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As the owners of these buildings seek to decrease costs and reduce energy consumption they have begun to adopt building energy management systems (BEMS). BEMS have developed alongside intelligent building technologies such as sensors and wireless networks to manage energy usage, and according to expert services firm Navigant, the global BEMS market is expected to grow at an estimated CAGR of 18.2% to $12.8 Billion in 2025.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors
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