Tool for Rapid Identification of TCE in Plants
Plant uptake of TCE from contaminated groundwater is a well-known phenomenon. During the photosynthesis process, plants metabolize the TCE into a byproduct called trichloroacetic acid (TCAA). TCAA has been found to be a good indicator (or surrogate) molecule for the presence of TCE because it is more stable than TCE in plants. The hyperspectral estimator is being designed to detect TCAA. The method uses a white light that is directed at the surface of a plant's leaf. The interaction between the light and the leaf produces spectral signatures that are captured using a detector. A processor that will be coupled to the detector will compare these signatures to a library/database of signatures known to be indicators of the presence of TCAA (and thus TCE). The figure below on the left shows hyperspectral images captured using the method for leaves dosed with TCE over various time periods. These images are examples of response signatures that will eventually be built into the device's reference library/database. Proof-of-concept testing has shown that the hyperspectral estimator is capable of estimating the presence/absence of TCE in plant leaves with an accuracy of 80%. Efforts are now underway to further improve the accuracy of this method and to prototype the technology. The figure below on the right shows a diagram of the planned device.
Video Acuity Measurement System
The Video Acuity metric is designed to provide a unique and meaningful measurement of the quality of a video system. The automated system for measuring video acuity is based on a model of human letter recognition. The Video Acuity measurement system is comprised of a camera and associated optics and sensor, processing elements including digital compression, transmission over an electronic network, and an electronic display for viewing of the display by a human viewer. The quality of a video system impacts the ability of the human viewer to perform public safety tasks, such as reading of automobile license plates, recognition of faces, and recognition of handheld weapons. The Video Acuity metric can accurately measure the effects of sampling, blur, noise, quantization, compression, geometric distortion, and other effects. This is because it does not rely on any particular theoretical model of imaging, but simply measures the performance in a task that incorporates essential aspects of human use of video, notably recognition of patterns and objects. Because the metric is structurally identical to human visual acuity, the numbers that it yields have immediate and concrete meaning. Furthermore, they can be related to the human visual acuity needed to do the task. The Video Acuity measurement system uses different sets of optotypes and uses automated letter recognition to simulate the human observer.
Progressive Band Selection for Hyperspectral Images
Only a small portion of a hyperspectral image is useful to identify any given material. The sheer volume of data in the image causes many material classification programs to run slowly and produce poor results, as they search the full image dataset for the information they need. The same algorithm can produce more accurate results in less time if it is given a reduced dataset that contains only the information most useful for detecting the target material. This technology is a system that creates reduced datasets tailored for each potential application. The system can operate on archived hyperspectral imagery from NASA's EO-1 Hyperion instrument or on data from future missions, such as the Hyperspectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI), as they become operational. Other agencies with hyperspectral imagers, including the defense and intelligence communities, can also use the system in their applications. Additionally, the system can operate on-board these spacecraft, allowing them to quickly and autonomously analyze the imagery they collect. Spacecraft with this capability could detect emerging situations and then intelligently re-task themselves to collect more data, or alert scientists or emergency personnel on the ground. This innovation includes an algorithm to convert hyperspectral images to a progressive format, along with another algorithm to quickly analyze hyperspectral images in this progressive format and select the most important bands for a given science application.
Lightning Mitigation and Damage Detection
The NASA technology can be used to protect tall structures from lightning strike damage. When a lightning leader propagates through the atmosphere in the vicinity of a tall structure, the lightning electromagnetic emissions generated from the moving electrical charge will impinge upon the tall structure before the actual charge attaches. As the lightning leader propagates closer to the tall structure, the radiated emissions at the tall structure will grow stronger. The SansEC sensor is designed to operate within the lightning radiated emission spectrum and thus is passively powered by the external oscillating magnetic field from the lightning itself. The sensor will resonate and generate its own oscillating magnetic and electric fields which have been demonstrated to influence lighting attachment and propagation.
Microwave-Based Water Decontamination System
Bacterial contamination of water systems used in microgravity is a major issue for NASA because biofilms can clog or interfere with water system functions and bacterial ingestion can be harmful to astronaut health. To address this problem, NASA innovators developed a microwave based technology to purify contaminated water by eradicating and eliminating bacteria that grows in systems that generate potable water, in equipment utilizing cooling loops and heat exchangers, and removing bacterial contamination that is present on a variety of surfaces. This decontamination system is chemical free and requires minimal to no consumables. Initial testing identified a specific microwave frequency band and exposure times for killing bacteria (Burkholderia cepacia) and biofilm. Test results show that exposing static water to microwave energy for 90 seconds can effectively kill waterborne bacteria and biofilm within a water filtration system. Additional testing, using a circulating water test bed, demonstrated that microwave energy at the selected frequency can effectively eradicate waterborne bacteria within 30 seconds. This technology could be further developed into a portable, lightweight system for use in remote locations as well as commercial space applications. The microwave decontamination system could also be added to existing water systems to extend the life of the system.
Portable Wireless Signal Booster
Communications are of paramount importance in conducting space missions, and an antenna's signal strength is vital to the success of any mission. All antennas have a limited range. NASA needed a mobile signal booster that could be placed as needed to supplement any weak spots encountered by an astronaut crew at the site once a baseline system was deployed. Like all space hardware, the booster needed to be durable, compact and lightweight. This innovation successfully integrates the classic Fresnel Ring model into a conductive fabric structure. The result is an ultra-light, deployable device that acts as a lens to significantly enhance the realizable gain of an antenna. A Fresnel Ring design on the booster is specially shaped to cancel specific phases of the radiated signal. This makes other more desirable parts of the signal more prominent. Different variations of shapes of the booster can be offered. A round, medium size unit could expect to increase signal gain in all directions by about 7 dB. A larger, elliptical-shaped unit could expect to increase signal gain in a focused direction by up to 15 dB.
The AeroPods design for steadying and damping payloads includes the use of a tail boom and fin combination. It is a novel design and provides a relatively simple alternative to the traditional methods for suspending equipment from kites or blimps. The AeroPod is superior to the traditional Picavet pulley-style suspension system for kite-flight because its light weight, simple to construct, and has no moving parts. Furthermore, the AeroPod design is advantageous to the traditional tethered blimp suspension technique where tether motion is translated directly to the sensor system because the AeroPod is free of direct motions of the tether.
Freeze-Resistant Hydration System
Even when a water conformal fluid reservoir and drink straw are zipped into a down suit, water freezes under extreme conditions. This poses a health hazard, particularly to high-altitude climbers who mouth-breathe, as mouth-breathing causes substantial fluid loss (in exhaled breaths). Climbers of 8,000-meter peaks get only 1 liter or less of fluid on summit days because their drink bottles freeze so quickly. The High Altitude Hydration System keeps water from freezing in three different ways. First, the system has passive thermal control that uses aerogel insulation on the outside of the conformal fluid reservoir and around the drinking straw to protect the contents from the cold. The container is placed within an inner layer of clothing, and the insulated straw is pulled out from underneath the suit for sips. Second, the system has a braided copper wire placed around the exterior of the drinking straw and another heat-collecting surface about the container wall to transfer body-generated heat to the fluid reservoir and straw during use. Third, the system uses a microcontroller and tape heater powered by a battery to keep the straw warm and free of ice crystals.
Electric Field Imaging System
The EFI imaging platform consists of a sensor array, processing equipment, and an output device. By registering voltage differences at multiple points within the sensor array, the EFI system can calculate the electrical potential at points removed from the sensor. Using techniques similar to computed tomography, the electrical potential data can be assembled into a three-dimension map of the magnitude and direction of electric fields. Since objects interact with electric fields differently based on their shape and dielectric properties, this electric field data can then be used to understand shape, internal structure, and dielectric properties (e.g., impedance, resistance) of objects in three dimensions. The EFI sensor can be used on its own to see electric fields or image electric fieldemitting objects near the sensor (e.g., to evaluate leakage from poorly shielded wires or casings). For evaluation of objects that do not produce an electric field, NASA has developed generator that emits a low-current, human-safe electrostatic field for snapshot evaluation of objects. Additionally, an alternative EFI system optimized to evaluate electric fields at significant distances (greater than 1 mile) is being developed for weather-related applications.
Robonaut 2: Hazardous Environments
Robonaut 2 (R2) has the capability of functioning autonomously or it can be controlled by direct teleoperations, which is advantageous for hazardous environments. When functioning autonomously, R2 understands what to do and how to do it based on sensory input. R2's torso holds the control system while the visor holds several cameras that are incorporated into the visual perception system. With these capabilities, R2 can reduce or eliminate the need for humans to be exposed to dangerous environments. R2 also has a very rugged four-wheel base called the Centaur 2. The Centaur 2 base can lower or raise itself to and from the ground and turn its wheels in any direction, allowing it to turn in place and drive forward or sideways. This enables the R2 to enter hazardous areas or tackle difficult terrain without endangering its human operator. Robonaut 2 as a whole, or some of its components, can be an invaluable tool for land mine detection, bomb disposal, search and rescue, waste recycling, medical quarantined area, and so much more. The suite of technologies provides an ability to manipulate tools to help with a task, or it can tackle many tasks in a row, where a standard robot may not have the dexterity or sensing capability to get the job done. R2 could pick through nuclear waste, measure toxicity levels, and survey areas too remote or dangerous for human inspection. R2 could deal with improvised explosive devices, detect and dispose of bombs or landmines, and operate equipment that can break through walls or doors.