Ballistic Radomes for Communications Antennas

The Army Digitized Force requires a robust communications infrastructure for its superior IT/C4ISR (Information Technologies/Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Sur veil lance, and Reconnaissance). Ballistic radomes protecting communications antennas will increase the survivability and maintain the lethality of combat platforms. Legacy antennas on combat platforms are vulnerable to small arms fire and munitions fragments. Antennas on platforms with active threat protection systems have the added threat from the munitions fragments generated by the system that can shoot down and pre-detonate incoming warheads. Current radomes do not protect the antenna from these threats, as they are usually thin-walled composite structures to minimize RF transmission loss.

Posted in: Application Briefs, RF & Microwave Technology, RF & Microwave Electronics

Tactical Lab Trains Warfighters in Space Hardware and Software Control Tasks

A Training and Tactical ORS Operations (TATOO) Laboratory is being developed by Star Technologies Corp. under the direction of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Human Effectiveness Division. Hardware and software is being created to give voice to the warfighter’s interaction with Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) satellites. The goal of the TATOO lab is to provide an environment for the development of procedures and protocol for tasking tactical satellites, as well as an environment for training the warfighter.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Computer software / hardware, Satellite communications, Education, Test facilities, Military aircraft, Military vehicles and equipment

Electrically Driven General Systems for UAVs

General systems are defined as all of the flight safety critical systems of an aircraft, excluding the engine and flight control computing. Usually, the main subsystems in a general system include the electrical power generation and distribution system, the primary and secondary flight control actuation system, the hydraulic system, the environmental control system, the fuel system, and the landing gear and brake system.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Flight management systems, Safety critical systems, Electric power, Unmanned aerial vehicles

Demodulating Over-the-Air Communications

Today, modern radio designs have made a predominant shift to the software-defined radio architecture. From cellular handsets to military communications devices, the flexibility to use multiple wireless standards with a common RF front end is a compelling benefit. While the architecture of a software-defined radio is well understood, the inner workings are often not. In this article, we will explain how the software-defined radio architecture can be used to demodulate an unknown over-the-air signal. In this case, we will use a software-defined PXI RF vector signal analyzer from National Instruments to prototype the software-defined radio. By understanding basic radio hardware and software fundamentals, even the novice engineer should be able to demodulate over-the-air transmissions.

Posted in: Articles, RF & Microwave Technology, Aerospace, RF & Microwave Electronics, Software-Defined Radio

High-Resolution Anatomic and Elastographic Transrectal Ultrasound for Improved Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer screening generally uses the Pro state Spe cific Antigen (PSA) blood test, free-PSA testing, and Digital Rectal Exam ination (DRE). When the PSA is used, there exists a significant gray area in which cancers may be missed. Addition ally, DRE is practically limited to the detection of shallow (subcapsular) palpable abnormalities. Even systematic multi-core biopsy fails to detect clinically detectable cancers in up to 34% of men. Thus, there is compelling clinical interest in finding improved detection methods.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Diagnosis, Diseases, Physical examination, Acoustics, Test equipment and instrumentation

Medical Information Network Decision Support System

In order to facilitate a more rapid and systematic transfer of new medical knowledge and capabilities into mainstream clinical practice, a new Medical Information Network Decision Support (MINDS) system has been proposed. This system is intended to be a platform for storing and fusing medical data across all levels (e.g. from low-level genomic and proteomic data to higher level clinical data) in a standardized way.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Data exchange, Medical equipment and supplies, Data management

Characterizing Turbulent Wind Flow Near a Wind Barrier Using Sonic Anemometers

The Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) facility at Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB), NM, has a test section of 1.8 km that contains an artificial rain field generation capability over the track. The raindrops produced can be excessively deflected when the cross-track wind speed is greater than 1 m/s. To extend testing times to days when moderate wind conditions (1 to 5 m/s) are present, the HHSTT plans to construct a wind barrier for cross-track wind reduction. Before the construction of a complete wind barrier, an observational study was carried out to characterize the mean and turbulent wind fields using a small prototype section of the wind barrier.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Water, Test equipment and instrumentation, Test facilities, Turbulence

Method for Detecting Planar Surfaces in Outdoor Urban Environments

The ability to detect and recognize buildings is important to a variety of vision applications operating in outdoor urban environments. These include landmark recognition, assisted and autonomous navigation, image-based rendering, and 3D scene modeling. The problem of detecting multiple planar surfaces from a single image has been solved with this technology.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Technology, Imaging, Product development

Multifunctional Properties of Structural Gel Electrolytes

Due to the demand for more advanced and lightweight systems, multifunctional composite structures that can function as electrochemical energy converters, while bearing mechanical load, are in development. This research involves a materials-based approach in which each component of the system serves to bear and/or efficiently transfer load. In this iteration, multifunctional structural gel electrolytes were prepared by the integration of conductive pathways using non-aqueous solvents into structural resin networks. Polyethylene glycol (200 MW) and propylene carbonate were used as the non-aqueous solvents, while vinyl ester and epoxy resin were used as structural resins. The monomer and solvents were incorporated together and polymerized to create conductive pathways in cross-linked networks. The impact of chemistry and weight fraction of both liquid and resin were investigated on the electrochemical-mechanical response of the resulting system.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Aircraft structures, Body structures, Composite materials, Electrolytes, Materials properties

Multi-Agent Software for Airspace Control in the Combat Zone

AGENTFLY software is part of a computer-based system technology that will enhance airspace operation, providing ever-increasing support to personnel without freeing them from the ultimate responsibility. AGENTFLY features distributed coordination mechanisms based on collective decision-making and knowledge sharing, agent architecture, and specific agents responsible for data collection/ updating and planning/scheduling tasks, and the required visualization technology.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Architecture, Computer software / hardware, Personnel, Air traffic control, Military aircraft

Dynamics of Epitaxy on Nano-Sized Semiconductor Surfaces

Semiconductor self-assembled quantum dots (QDs) have emerged as one of the simplest subjects for exploring and exploiting the physics and device applications of charge carriers and excitons in the three-dimensional confinement regime. Nanoscale-sized surfaces in the form of mesas or ridges on patterned substrates offer opportunities, not only for creating large densities of QDs with great homogeneity, but also for novel thin-film growth-control phenomena during the formation of QDs on the surfaces of Si stripe and mesa structures. Si mesa structures have been demonstrated to be an excellent template for studying homoepitaxy and heteroepitaxy phenomena.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Nanotechnology, Semiconductors, Test equipment and instrumentation, Test procedures

Cooperative Single-Antenna Node Networks

Future tactical networks will be complex, with severe constraints on energy and bandwidth, operating in dynamic and unpredictable environments. By exploiting the broadcast nature of the wireless medium and spatially dispersed nodes, some of these advantages can be realized through cooperation among single-antenna nodes in a network.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Telecommunications systems, Reliability, Military vehicles and equipment

Frangible Polymer Circuit Acts as Tamper Sensor

Originally begun as an investigation to detect attempts to tap into an electrical cable, the emergence of modern encryption hardware rendered impractical attempts to protect communication media such as a cable.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Computer software / hardware, Cryptography, Cyber security, Integrated circuits, Polymers

Web-Based Software Uses Patient Data to Diagnose Cancer

Physicians may soon be able to better prevent and more accurately diagnose breast cancer with the help of battlefield planning software designed for missile defense.

Medical Information Network Decision Support (MINDS™) software uses Web-based information management, decision support models, and architecture originally designed for Missile Defense Agency (MDA) command and control systems as part of a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract. MINDS works under the assumption that to improve results, whether in an operating room or on a battlefield, users need a common framework capable of pulling in disparate, scattered data and making sense of it.

Posted in: Tech Transfer Reports, Diagnostics, Software

Information Technology Helps Users Monitor Power Consumption

Buildings and factories are a lot like living creatures. Their mechanical systems, from elevators to manufacturing equipment, are like muscles. Specialized fluids and life-giving utilities such as water, natural gas, steam, and electricity course through their structure. And they respond to their environment. They get hot and cold, and they can feel the effects of humidity.

Increasingly, monitoring the physiology of buildings, factories, and aircraft has relied on networks of sensors that serve as a nervous system, collecting data on conditions and problems and then feeding information to an automated brain center such as a building management system (BMS). Such systems allow human users or rules-based software to monitor conditions and make decisions, whether shutting down a machine that has reached a certain temperature or closing off a gas line that has developed a leak. But a nervous system for a building or another structure needs computing power not just at the brain center; it also needs computing power at the nodes — at the sensors and data-collection points.

Embedded Research Solutions (ERS) of Annapolis, MD, has developed software for these nervous-system endpoints. Not only is ERS supplying “miniature software” (loaded on tiny processing devices that can be attached to sensors), it also sells a service that includes real-time collection of data, aggregation of the data, and delivery of the data back to the customer.

The software for ERS’s technology was funded through Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I and Phase II contracts from the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for a concept known as pervasive computing in which multiple sensors work together on a network.

How it Works

In addition to the obvious savings from conserving energy, having better insight into how energy is being used in a building also allows the manager of the building to participate in government-endorsed energy initiatives.

The interest in managing power consumption has spawned companies such as Con sumerPowerline and Mosto Technologies Com panies, two energy-asset-management firms that work with large users that want to tap in to the energy incentives programs. Mosto is using the ERS technology at sites such as Rockefeller Center in New York City. ERS devices and node software are working to gather data on steam-heat usage at Rockefeller Center buildings.

ERS also is seeing significant business through its relationship with ConsumerPowerline. In early 2008, ERS’s technology already was deployed at seven ConsumerPowerline customer sites, and would be used at 300 more customer sites.

Nodes at a customer site could be set up to pass along data in several ways. A node could transmit the data wirelessly, via cellular or analog modem, or via a hardwired network connection. The last method is useful for environments such as aircraft, another application area where ERS’s technology is taking off. ERS is working with aircraft companies Lockheed Martin, BAE, and Gulfstream to deploy ERS software and hardware for sensors used on military and surveillance aircraft for applications such as monitoring the performance of cooling systems.

Where it Stands

Five years ago, ERS was positioning its technology largely as a tool for the R&D community. The company repackaged its technology from a simple plug-and-play wireless device suited to researchers who wanted to collect data such as river temperature or rainfall levels at various points in the field, to a product optimized for commercial and industrial users.

The improved device, which is called a Monitoring & Control Server (MCS), still acts as the gateway for data from field sensors and actuators. MCS can work on a wired or wireless network, and stored data within the MCS can be retrieved via a network connection (Ethernet or cellular), dial-up, or by simply plugging in a USB memory device. Inside the repackaged device, the core miniature software remains essentially the same.

More Information

For more information on power management software from ERS, visit http://info.hotims.com/22928-518. (Source: L. Scott Tillett/NTTC; MDA TechUpdate, Missile Defense Agency, National Technology Transfer Center Washington Operations)

Posted in: Tech Transfer Reports, Information Technology

Scheduling Software Enables On-Time Aircraft Deliveries

Building next-generation aircraft may be a daunting task logistically, but using new software developed with Missile Defense Agency (MDA) funding could save manufacturers time, cost, and labor, ensuring quicker deliveries around the world.

Posted in: Tech Transfer Reports, Software

Using Real-World Methodologies to Calculate SSD Usable Life

With more embedded systems using SSDs in critical applications, designers are now asking the question, “How long will this SSD last in my application?” To help answer this pressing question, it is important to review the recent changes in NAND flash technology.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Application Briefs, Embedded Technology, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Computer software / hardware, Life cycle analysis

Middleware Offers Integration Framework for Dynamic UAV Applications

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) like the MQ-1 Predator have excelled in the theaters of war in which they have been deployed. However, the ability of those controlling the UAV to conceive of new missions for the Predator and other deployed UAVs in the field has led to the U.S. Air Force recognition that the fundamental architectural approach to development of complete Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), including ground stations and other elements, has to put integration capability front and center as a key design issue.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Architecture, Systems engineering, Military aircraft, Unmanned aerial vehicles

Interaction Methods for Virtual Reality Applications

The potential of Virtual Reality (VR) technology has not been fully realized because the user interfaces are not designed to effectively support the user. One of the most critical interface aspects is the possibility to interact with the system within the virtual environment. The initial idea of optimizing the user interaction was to transfer the interaction that occurs in the real world as accurately as possible into the VR environment. In this case the user, theoretically, would have no problems interchanging between the two worlds.

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace

High-Cycle Life Testing of RF MEMS Switches

MEMS switch technology has many potential benefits over conventional electronic devices for switching microwave and millimeter-wave signals. MEMS switches possess very low insertion loss, miniscule power consumption, and ultra-high linearity. These characteristics make MEMS technology an ideal candidate for incorporation into passive circuits, such as phase shifters or tunable filters, for implementation in the passive front-end of phased antenna arrays at Xband and above.

Posted in: Application Briefs, RF & Microwave Technology, RF & Microwave Electronics

Synthetic Aperture Radar Image Recognition

Synthetic radar image recognition and classification are areas of interest for both the military and civilian communities. These tasks have significance in automatic target recognition, air traffic control, and remote sensing. Equivalent problems of recognition and classification are also of interest for the ultrasonic and sonar imaging communities, for which numerous algorithms such as neural networks, wavelets, fuzzy logic, mean-square error-matching templates, and feature base classifications have been used.

Posted in: Articles, RF & Microwave Technology, RF & Microwave Electronics

Microfabrication and Testing of a Thermoelectric Device for Generating Mobile Electrical Power

Several attractive features of thermo-electric (TE) technology include no moving parts, light weight, modularity, covertness, silence, high power density, low amortized cost, and long service life with no required maintenance. Many of the potential uses for mounted/ dismounted power, such as recharging batteries, are therefore ideal for TE technologies. However, these applications will require more interconnected, smaller-scale modular devices than are currently available. Most commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) TE devices are optimized for cooling, not for generating power, so new device structures with materials and geometries better optimized for power generation are needed for broader use of TE technologies.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Architecture, Fabrication, Electro-thermal engines, Test procedures

Detector Module for Testing Silicon Carbide Semiconductor Devices

Long-term stress testing of silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductor devices is required to determine suitability for power electronics applications. During testing, preventable catastrophic failures can occur due to drift in steady-state operation or transients that shift the device outside of its safe operating range. Both steady-state and transient drift are easily monitored values including temperature, on-state resistance, voltage, and current, as well as others. By measuring and reacting to shifts in these values, device damage can be minimized.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Power electronics, Semiconductor devices, Fatigue, Silicon alloys, Test equipment and instrumentation

Automated Data Acquisition for a Prognostics and Diagnostics Health Monitoring System

A highly flexible automated prognostics and diagnostics sensor module (PDSM) prototype is presently under development to be incorporated for data acquisition in a Prognostics and Diagnostics Health Monitoring System (PDHMS). PDHMS acquires, stores, and communicates data gathered from sensors that monitor essential platform components to determine its current diagnostic status. This diagnostic data is used to make reliable prognostications of remaining operational life expectancy based on a platform usage profile.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Data exchange, Sensors and actuators, Diagnostics, Prognostics

Wettability Tests of Polymer Films and Fabrics

High-strength polymer materials are useful components in many multifunctional materials applications. However, because of low reactivity, their use is inhibited in many processing techniques. Polymer films and fibers possess low surface energies and need to be modified through surface activation prior to being used in composite systems where adhesive bonding is an issue. Treatment of polymer materials through plasma processing is one route to greatly increase surface reactivity. Once the surface has been plasma-modified, wettability by liquids can be examined to determine the treatment effects on the polymer material’s surface reactivity.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Joining, Composite materials, Fibers, Materials properties, Polymers

Using a Steering Shaping Function to Improve Human Performance in By-Wire Vehicles

Currently, there is a performance issue regarding vehicle control at higher speeds for some indirect-vision, by-wire military vehicles; that is, those vehicles in which mechanical links between the driver and control devices are replaced by electronic or computerized signals. Work has been performed to assess the current state of knowledge regarding the shaping function. The overall goal was to identify design parameters critical to improving the current by-wire implementation for military tactical vehicles, and to ultimately optimize system (i.e., human-vehicle) performance for the execution of secure mobile operations.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Steer-by-wire, Human machine interface (HMI), Military vehicles and equipment, Vehicle dynamics

Manufacturing Cylindrical Parts Using Deep Draw Technology

In applications where product performance is mission critical, commercial, military, and aerospace companies require technology to manufacture deep- drawn cylindrical product components. Conventional production alternatives such as impact, spinning, and supplemental annealing processes often do not deliver reliable results for certain applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Molding, Production engineering, Parts

Advanced Lithium Ion Systems for Military Vehicles

The higher energy and power density of Li-Ion battery technology offers a significant reduction in the weight and volume for hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) battery systems compared to lead acid and nickel metal hydride technologies. Saft’s High Power Li-ion battery technology has demonstrated specific power of over 6,000 W/kg under continuous discharge, and a pulse discharge of 8,000 to 12,000 W/kg.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Lithium-ion batteries, Hybrid electric vehicles, Military vehicles and equipment

MEMS-Based Optical Limiter

Protecting optical sensors and detectors against excessive input signals is not only important for dealing with unintentional overloads, but also central for protecting sensors against intentional high-intensity sources such as flares or laser beams directed as countermeasures against the sensor system. In prior work, a microelectromechanical system (MEMS)-based, all optically driven deformable mirror was designed and fabricated. In this work, an optical limiter using this optically addressed, deformable mirror is proposed and designed.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Mirrors, Microelectricmechanical device, Optics, Sensors and actuators

Reducing Thicknesses of PbZrₓTi₁₋ₓO₃ Films in Capacitors

A document describes experiments performed to determine effects of reducing the thicknesses of films of lead zirconate titanate (PbZrxTi1-xO3, wherein 0<x<1) used as ferroelectric dielectric layers in some capacitors. The fabrication of specimen capacitors for the experiments involved numerous steps, including spin-coating of PbZrxTi1-xO3-precursor sol-gel solutions onto bottom Pt electrode layers on silicon substrates, heat treatments to covert the sol-gel coats to PbZrxTi1-xO3, and deposition of top Pt electrode layers on the PbZrxTi1-xO3 layers. Various spin rates and solution compositions were used to obtain various PbZrxTi1-xO3- film thicknesses and compositions. Current responses of specimens to applied voltage waveforms were measured to characterize the specimens in terms of capacitance, hysteresis, and polarization. It was concluded that thicknesses of PbZrxTi1-xO3 films could be reduced to between 1,800 and 2,200 A while retaining ferroelectric performance adequate for a proposed development in which nanoelectromechanical switches containing PbZrxTi1-xO3 films would be integrated with complementary metal oxide/semiconductor transistors. One of the sol-gel solutions, characterized by x = 0.45 and a molarity of 0.367, was found to be the most promising for further work to improve performance at thicknesses < 1,800 A.

Posted in: Briefs, Physical Sciences, Capacitors, Transistors, Fabrication, Ferrous metals and alloys, Silicon alloys