2011

Before a new high-power semiconductor device can be used for industrial applications, it must be thoroughly tested to determine if it will survive environmental stresses and continue to meet specifications. This is especially true for the latest wide-bandgap semiconductor materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) to ensure they can withstand high voltage and temperatures.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and Northwestern University have developed a tiny, soft, and wearable acoustic sensor that measures vibrations in the human body, allowing them to monitor human heart health and recognize spoken words. The stretchable device captures physiological sound signals from the body, has physical properties matched with human skin, and can be mounted on nearly any surface of the body. The sensor resembles a small Band-Aid®, weighs less than one-hundredth of an ounce, and can gather continuous physiological data.

Environmental monitoring — the assessment of air, water, and soil quality — is highly important to oil and gas exploration companies, landowners, regulatory agencies, municipalities, and any organization measuring emissions and pollutants. The majority of monitoring technologies, however, are expensive and labor intensive, often requiring sample collection and preparation (i.e., external lab analysis) that can dramatically alter the sample and its inherent components. Of those technologies that do allow for in-situ analysis, few are amenable to measurements under harsh conditions, such as high temperature and/or pressure.

Photons have no mass, but they have momentum. This allows researchers to use light to push matter around. Scientists at the Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken advantage of this property to develop devices that can create and measure minute forces, an area traditionally underserved by the metrology community.

Research at The University of Nottingham (UK) and the University at Ningbo (China) has found that laser scanning is a viable structural safety technique to detect the damaging effects of fire on concrete. Concrete is the most extensively used construction material worldwide with an average global yearly consumption of 1 cubic meter per person. Fire is one of the most serious potential risks to concrete structures such as bridges, tunnels, and buildings.

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed a metrology workbench for the measurement and visualization of displacement and strain fields in three dimensions. The workbench uses two or more cameras to image a specimen, and includes custom software that implements the 3D Meshless Random Grid method.

The system can simulate a microgravity environment with a wide range of terrain types and topographies.

This technology allows one to test small-body surface mobility and sampling systems in the laboratory. It is capable of simulating a microgravity environment with relevant terrain. The magnitude of the gravity, the terrain properties, and the surface system being tested are all easily modified to allow for a broad range of experimental setups.

Highly accurate, flexible system measures relative dynamics in six degrees of freedom.

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a novel method to calculate the relative position and orientation between two rigid objects using a simplified photogrammetric technique. The system quantitatively captures the relative orientation of objects in six degrees of freedom (6-DOF), using one or more cameras with non-overlapping fields of view (FOV) that record strategically placed photogrammetric targets.

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed new software that enables users of critical inspection systems to validate the capability of the inspection system. Traditionally, inspection systems are validated using various methodologies to determine probability of detection (POD). One widely accepted metric of an adequate inspection system is that there is 95% confidence that the POD is greater than 90% (90/95 POD). Directed Design of Experiments for Probability of Detection (DOEPOD) is a user-friendly software package that enables detailed analysis of 90/95 POD or at any specified confidence level. Although it was designed to validate the capability of inspection systems to find fracture- critical flaws in materials, DOEPOD can be applied to systems to locate any type of flaw as well as to validate the detection capability of personnel. DOEPOD can also be employed as the core of an NDE (nondestructive evaluation) system, and provide accurate on-demand validation of the inspection system.

This technology enhances the predictive capabilities of weather forecasting models.

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a novel method for long-range atmospheric pressure sensing. Based on known properties involving oxygen density, the technology is able to measure small pressure changes over a wide area. NASA developed the technology to address known gaps in the area of weather forecasting as a result of the inability to accurately detect atmospheric pressure above the ocean. Oxygen band reading can be performed remotely, most likely from a satellite-based system. The technology is particularly applicable in the area of storm forecasting.

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