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Physical Sciences

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News : Green Design & Manufacturing
The Top Tech Briefs Stories of 2017
The Top Tech Briefs Stories of 2017

With another year of Tech Briefs almost in the books, it's time to look at our most-read news articles of 2017.

Top stories included a look back at the life of Robert Goddard, and a look forward to...

The Top Tech Briefs Stories of 2017
News : Physical Sciences
Sound-Off: How Should Universities Prepare Tomorrow’s Vehicle Designers?
The skill set for tomorrow’s automotive designer? A combination of traditional engineering, physical sciences, mathematics, and, more than ever, ethics.
Q&A : Photonics/Optics
Q&A: NASA's Dr. James Thorpe Develops Instrumentation for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA)

Gravitational waves from colliding black holes were first observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) instruments in 2015. Building on these efforts on the ground, an international group of scientists is working to...

News : Imaging
Is Pluto a Planet? Scientists Seek New Definition

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to "non-planet" status. Johns Hopkins University scientist Kirby Runyon led a group of six researchers to draft a new definition of "planet" — one that includes more than 100 other celestial bodies, including Pluto. The proposal was...

Question of the Week : Physical Sciences
Should Pluto be restored as a planet?

This week’s Question: Last week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Johns Hopkins University's Kirby Runyon reignited an often fierce debate within the scientific community: Pluto’s planetary status.

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Foldable and Deployable Power Collection System

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is developing a lightweight space-based solar power array with a high power-to-stowed-volume and weight ratio. The system provides power to small satellites and CubeSats that are power starved, operating on extremely limited power because of the size...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Solid-State Ultracapacitor

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a solid-state ultracapacitor utilizing a novel nanocomposite dielectric material. The material’s design is based on the internal barrier layer capacitance (IBLC) concept, and it uses novel dielectric and metallic conductive ink formulations.

Briefs : Propulsion
Iodine-Compatible Hall Effect Thruster

The Hall effect thruster (HET) was designed for long-duration operation with gaseous iodine as the propellant. Iodine is an alternative to the state-of-the-art propellant xenon. Compared to xenon, iodine stores as a solid at much higher density and at a much lower pressure. Because iodine is a halogen, it...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
An Alternative Molecular Sexing Method for the Florida Scrub-jay

A new method of molecular sexing is described that helps to understand population dynamics of the Florida Scrub-jay (FSJ). FSJ is an endemic, nonmigratory, monomorphic species of bird found on the Florida peninsula in lowgrowing oak or pine scrub. The current conservation status...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) Science Simulator

The SWOT Science Simulator simulates projected SWOT altimetry observations that can be applied to an ocean general circulation model, allowing the exploration of ideas and methods to optimize information retrieval from the proposed SWOT Mission, which is currently baselined to launch in...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Digital Elevation Model Maker (DEMmaker)

The DEMmaker suite of software applications produces data products containing surface shape, reflectivity, and geomorphology (craters and rocks) for a desired planetary surface based on statistically accurate size and frequency distributions of geologic and surface impact features. The current version can...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS)

TOPS is a modeling software system that integrates data from satellite, aircraft, and ground sensors, and weather/climate models with application models to expeditiously produce operational nowcasts and forecasts of ecological conditions. TOPS allows determination of the options for different...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Images of Change for iPad

Images of Change provides a user-friendly mobile interface for exploring an extensive gallery of land-based and space-based images showing dramatic change over time on Earth. Hosted on NASA’s Global Climate Change website, Images of Change is designed to raise awareness of climate change, inspire curiosity and...

Briefs : Green Design & Manufacturing
Characteristics of the Spliced Kennedy Space Center Doppler Radar Wind Profiler Database

NASA relies on the Natural Environments (NE) Branch located at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to provide databases that represent the wind magnitudes and wind changes expected on day-of-launch (DOL) for vehicle programs that MSFC NE supports. MSFC NE...

Briefs : Aerospace
Hydrogen Peroxide for Microbial Growth Control in Space Potable Water Systems

NASA uses a biocide to prevent contamination of astronaut drinking water with harmful microorganisms. Concerns have arisen over existing biocides — that they’re inadequately effective, and may have toxic side effects when consumed. New microbial control methods are...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Method of Water Regeneration From Waste and Cascade Distillation

Effective recovery of potable water from various streams and sources of wastewater, seawater, or contaminated water is a significant task for securing existence of human beings in space, terrestrial, and marine environments. Efficient purification of the wastewater is also a very...

Briefs : Energy
Optical Fiber for Solar Cells

Polymeric and inorganic semiconductors offer relatively high quantum efficiencies, and are much less expensive and versatile to fabricate than non-amorphous silicon wafers. An optical fiber and cladding can be designed and fabricated to confine light for transport within ultraviolet and near-infrared media, using...

Briefs : Energy
Pumped Subsea Energy Storage

A local energy source is desired for near-shore and offshore applications. Gas generators, diesel generators, and long-length submerged power cables tend to be expensive. A proposed solution is to use offshore wind with some type of energy storage mechanism for up to 1 GW-h. Energy storage in batteries is too...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Carbon Nanotube Tower-Based Supercapacitor

A new technology to create electrochemical double-layer supercapacitors is provided using carbon nanotubes as electrodes of the storage medium. This invention allows efficient transport between the capacitor electrodes through the porous nature of the nanotubes, and has a low interface resistance...

Articles : Physical Sciences
A Continuous-Flow, Microfluidic, Microwave-Assisted Chemical Reactor

In industrial synthetic chemistry laboratories, reactions are generally carried out using batch-mode methodologies, stepwise reactions, and purifications to generate a final product. Each step has an associated yield of both the reaction itself and of the final purification...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Monolithic Dual Telescope for Compact Biaxial Lidar

A document discusses the Ultra Compact Cloud Physics Lidar, a biaxial lidar with a narrow receiver field of view. It requires tight optical alignment between the transmitter and receiver paths while flying on various aircraft over various temperatures and in the presence of vibration. To...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Ultra-Low-Maintenance Portable Ocean Power Station

The goals of this research are to develop a relatively inexpensive, compact, and modular power package for deep offshore oil drilling or other undersea applications that provides 2 to 5 MW electricity, minimal maintenance, and at least 30 years of life.

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Mars-Optimized Solar Cells

Commercial triple junction solar cell designs were modified in their junction thicknesses, contact grid densities, and anti-reflective (AR) coating thicknesses to better match the Mars surface solar spectrum. Resulting cells show up to approximately 8% relative improvement in efficiency under the Mars solar spectrum,...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Alternating Magnetic Field Forces for Satellite Formation Flying

Orbiting a large number of satellites in fixed formations will be critical to many future space missions, especially large-scale interferometers, telescopes, antennas, and gravity wave detectors. Consequently, extensive research has been devoted over the last 20 years to formation...

Articles : Physical Sciences
Thermal Materials Protect Priceless Personal Keepsakes

Most of us cannot comprehend the task of building something to withstand temperatures over 4,000 °F, but NASA can. The space shuttles endured such temperatures when returning to Earth’s atmosphere because of aerodynamic heating, or heating due to the combination of compression and surface...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Nanosensor/Cellphone Hybrid for Detecting Chemicals and Concentrations

Nanosensors have been developed for chemical detection using carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Unlike other chemical sensors, this solid-state approach requires no reagents and can be refreshed with a solid-state ultraviolet (UV) diode. The sensors possess high sensitivity (ppbv),...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Coated or Doped Carbon Nanotube Network Sensors as Affected by Environmental Parameters

Chemical sensors have been developed over the past decades to detect gases and vapors at various concentration levels for deployment in a wide range of industrial applications. The detection usually centers on a change of a particular property or status of...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Regenerable Internal CO Scrubber for Hydrogen Sensors

Amperometric electrochemical sensors are commonly used for the detection of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) in air. The electrochemistry of heterogeneous CO and H2 oxidations is similar enough that the sensors show significant cross-sensitivities between the two...