Avoiding or minimizing potential damage from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) such as suicide, roadside, or
vehicle bombs requires that the explosive device be detected and neutralized outside its effective blast radius. Only a few
seconds may be available to both identify the device as hazardous and implement a response. As discussed in a study by
the National Research Council, current technology is still far from capable of meeting these objectives. Conventional
nitrocarbon explosive chemicals have very low vapor pressures, and any vapors are easily dispersed in air. Many pointdetection
approaches rely on collecting trace solid residues from dust particles or surfaces. Practical approaches for
standoff detection are yet to be developed. For the past 5 years, SRI International has been working toward development
of a novel scheme for standoff detection of explosive chemicals that uses infrared (IR) laser evaporation of surfacebound
explosive followed by ultraviolet (UV) laser photofragmentation of the explosive chemical vapor, and then UV
laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) of nitric oxide. This method offers the potential of long standoff range (up to 100 m or
more), high sensitivity (vaporized solid), simplicity (no spectrometer or library of reference spectra), and selectivity
SRI International is developing a wireless sensor for monitoring the level of chloride ingress into concrete bridge decks. We call this device a Smart Pebble since it has roughly the size and weight of a typical piece of the rock aggregate that is used in such structures. It is "smart" in that it contains a chloride sensor and a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip that can be queried remotely both to identify it and to indicate chloride concentration levels. The Smart Pebble is also powered remotely, thus precluding the need for any lifetime-limiting batteries. It is designed to be inserted in the bridge deck either during the initial construction (or during refurbishment) or in a back-filled core hole. This paper will discuss the Smart Pebble design, operation, and status.
Space-based astronomy and remote sensing systems would benefit from extremely large aperture mirrors that can permit greater-resolution images. To be cost effective and practical, such optical systems must be lightweight and capable of deployment from highly compacted stowed configurations. Such gossamer mirror structures are likely to be very flexible and therefore present challenges in achieving and maintaining the required optically precise shape. Active control based on dielectric elastomers was evaluated in order to address these challenges. Dielectric elastomers offer potential advantages over other candidate actuation technologies including high elastic strain, low power dissipation, tolerance of the space environment, and ease of commercial fabrication into large sheets. The basic functional element of dielectric elastomer actuation is a thin polymer film coated on both sides by a compliant electrode material. When voltage is applied between electrodes, a compressive force squeezes the film, causing it to expand in area. We have explored both material survivability issues and candidate designs of adaptive structures that incorporate dielectric elastomer actuation. Experimental testing has shown the operation of silicone-based actuator layers over a temperature range of -100 °C to 260 °C, suitable for most earth orbits. Analytical (finite element) and experimental methods suggested that dielectric elastomers can produce the necessary shape change when laminated to the back of a flexible mirror or incorporated into an inflatable mirror. Interferometric measurements verified the ability to effect controllable shape changes less than the wavelength of light. In an alternative design, discrete polymer actuators were shown to be able to control the position of a rigid mirror segment with a sensitivity of 1800 nm/V, suggesting that sub-wavelength position control is feasible. While initial results are promising, numerous technical challenges remain to be addressed, including the development of shape control algorithms, the fabrication of optically smooth reflective coatings, consideration of dynamic effects such as vibration, methods of addressing large-numbers of active areas, and stowability and deployment schemes.
Health diagnostics is an area where major improvements have been identified for potential implementation into the design of new reusable launch vehicles in order to reduce life cycle costs, to increase safety margins, and to improve mission reliability. NASA Ames is leading the effort to develop inspection and health management technologies for thermal protection systems. This paper summarizes a joint project between NASA Ames and SRI International to develop SensorTags, radio-frequency identification devices coupled with event-recording sensors, that can be embedded in the thermal protection system to monitor temperature or other quantities of interest. Two prototype SensorTag designs containing thermal fuses to indicate a temperature overlimit are presented and discussed.
We describe a new approach to develop a high-speed, high-density random access cache memory. This new technique is based on a novel approach using, in essence, a hybrid of the time domain stimulated echo (SE) concept and the frequency domain scheme. It has been demonstrated that the rare-earth doped crystals, can at low temperatures store large amounts of information for up to 24 hours using SE. The basic approach we have developed is the partitioning of the absorption frequency domain into smaller bins, so that each frequency bin stores a smaller portion of information independently. The bins are distinguishable by their different absorption frequencies and they are accessed by changing the laser frequency (color). However, information is still stored and retrieved using the time-domain pulse sequency used in SE. Specifically, with the laser frequency set at the particular absorption of a frequency bin, the laser is externally modulated by an acousto-optic modulator to produce amplitude modulated pulses representing the digital data, the write pulse, and the read pulse, during the write and retrieve operation, respectively. The advantages of this approach are that memory can be stored in space, time, and frequency domain, allowing us to tailor a flexible memory architecture to match those of the computational processor.