Special Coverage

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
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing

Development of Photoacoustic Sensing Platforms

Research focuses on sensor miniaturization and detection of chemical targets both proximally and at range.

In recent years, photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) has emerged as an attractive and powerful technique well suited for sensing applications. The development of high-power radiation sources and more sophisticated electronics, including sensitive microphones and digital lock-in amplifiers, have allowed for significant advances in PAS. Furthermore, photoacoustic (PA) detection of IR absorption spectra using modern tunable lasers offers several advantages, including simultaneous detection and discrimination of numerous molecules of interest. Successful applications of PAS in gases and condensed matter have made this a notable technique and it is now studied and employed by scientists and engineers in a variety of disciplines.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, TSP, Aerospace, Photonics

Compact Active Vibration Control System

This system provides active damping of flexible structures using a simple and compact actuator, sensor, and control system.

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a point sensor and piezoelectric actuator system to actively sense and reduce vibrations in flexible structures. The system uses a directional piezoelectric actuator that couples to an underlying structure like four point forces acting normal to the structure. Four miniature accelerometers are located coincident with the piezoelectric point forces to create a matched actuator/sensor pair. This matched pair enables feedback control to be implemented using simple, robust, negative feedback that requires no knowledge of the dynamics of the structure, and can be implemented using analog electronics. When attached to a flexible structure, this active damping system can reduce vibrations in a variety of applications. Compared to other systems, this approach offers good performance with a simple and compact control system.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Self-Assembling, Reversible, Reagentless Biosensor

Applications include pathogen detection, industrial monitoring, chemical detection, and healthcare and drug discovery.

Recognition-based biosensors capable of specifically detecting chemicals, toxins, and bio-agents in their environment are of increasing importance. An important goal in biosensor evolution is production of nanoscale assemblies capable of continuously monitoring concentrations of target species in a simple, reliable manner. This is accomplished by designing sensor components to carry out analyte recognition and binding while simultaneously producing useful output signals via an integrated signal transduction system. Optically addressed biosensors of this type often employ fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) in signal transduction. FRET has been employed in carefully designed sensing systems for proteins, peptides, nucleic acids, and other small molecules.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Chip-Based Power Measurement Sensor

These sensors could be deployed in bulk, both on land and in space.

Phone signals spend at least some time traveling over fiber-optic cables. To ensure that the information gets where it needs to go, and to help researchers find better ways to ferry this information around, it’s necessary to reliably measure radiation power through these fibers. In order to calibrate a radiation power meter, researchers currently have to use a bulky cryogenic system and transfer the measurements to at least one other intermediate system. Each of these transfers increases uncertainties in the measurements, and the cryogenic systems are relatively rare and expensive to use and maintain.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Space Radiation Detector with Spherical Geometry

This technology enables in-situ studies of the impact of Galactic Cosmic Radiation ions on Earth and in space.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed and patented the Compact Full-Field Ion Detector System (CFIDS), a radiation particle detection system that provides information on the kinetic energies, directions, and electric charges of subatomic particles. The integrated package consists of a spherical Cherenkov detector, a compact detector stack, and low-noise, large-area detectors based on silicon carbide. The detectors and configuration can be modified to suit specific applications. The technology is an improvement over more conventional gas ionization detectors because the higher density of the solid media provides higher sensitivity to radiation. Originally developed to measure the properties of cosmic rays in outer space, the technology could be adapted for use on Earth for radiation dosimetry aboard high-altitude aircraft and in proton radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors

Low-Pressure Plasma Cleaning of Aerospace Components Using Breathing/Compressed Air

A method for precision cleaning of aerospace components is needed that does not use hazardous or environmentally harmful commodities. Historically, precision cleaning methods have utilized solvents that have contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer or had high potential for contributing to global warming. Solvent cleaning produces large waste streams, and some solvents may be phased out in the future due to the environmental concerns.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

Digital Beamforming Interferometry

This technology effectively divides a single antenna into two antennas.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a new radar approach that uses a single phased array antenna and a single-pass configuration to generate interferograms, known as Digital Beamforming Interferometry. A digital beamforming radar system allows the implementation of nonconventional radar techniques, known as Digital Beamforming Synthetic Aperture Radar Multimode Operation (DBSAR).

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics

Chain Drive Dust Conveyer

This method clears cutting fines from a sampling tool without the use of fluids.

The Mars 2020 coring drill will generate a significant amount of dust and debris (known as fines) due to the volume of milled material displaced by the corer's annulus. These cuttings must be removed to ensure that the drill does not jam. The typical method involves fluids, which may not work on Mars due to the atmospheric conditions.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components

Autonomous Combustion-Powered Hopping Robot

Applications include military assistance, law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland security.

Robots are conventionally made mobile by rolling on wheels; however, wheeled robots have limited ability to traverse large obstacles. Obstacles much taller than the robot's wheels can prevent passage, and obstacles with significant horizontal gaps, such as trenches, can also prevent passage. One solution is to use bigger wheels and a bigger wheelbase. Both of these require more drive power, so the entire robot must be larger. This can be prohibitive in applications with cost, size, space, or transportation constraints that limit the size of robot that can be used.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation

Fabrication of BSA 14-23 Superhydrophobic Sponges as Efficient Oil and Organic Liquid Absorbents

This approach is fast, simple, inexpensive, widely applicable, and scalable.

Oil spills have become an environmental problem due to the growth of offshore oil exploration, production, and transportation. There are several methods that have been used to clean up oil spills such as chemical dispersants, water skimming, and using absorbent materials. Although skimming is the most common method for cleaning large spills, this method is time-consuming, expensive, and poorly separates oil and water. Chemical dispersants can be used to break up oil slicks into droplets that can be easily dissipated in water, but the mixture of oil and dispersants can be toxic and damage marine ecosystems. Thus, the use of oil sorbents can be an effective method to ease oil collection, and sorbents have a high capacity for removing oil from a targeted site.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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