promises better Internet images
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, have developed data-compression software that promises to provide high-quality image and video data over ordinary telephone lines. The new software could allow engineers to download multiple design images from the Internet in a fraction of a second, click on a page that interests them, then zoom and pan around the image seamlessly. The software is based on an area of mathematics known as "wavelet theory," and could apply to digital TV, tele-medicine, CD-ROM, computer graphics, and database archiving, say MIT engineers. For details, FAX Alex Laats of the MIT Technology Licensing Office at (617) 258-6790.
High-density memory tops CD-ROM capacity
A new information-storage technique permits storage of 180 times more information than CD-ROMs, say engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Their High-Density Read-Only Memory, or HD-ROM, uses a focused ion beam to inscribe information on pins made from stainless steel, iridium, or other durable materials. "The HD-ROM marks a complete departure from existing data-storage technologies," says Roger Stutz, one of the program developers. "For the first time, a non-magnetic, non-optical data-storage system can be made from truly robust materials." Information is written into the HD-ROM using a micromill. A sputter-etch writing process takes place in an ultra-high vacuum, and removes material by atomic collisions in the region of the ion beam. The resulting binary features can be read--without the vacuum--by a souped-up atomic force microscope. For details, FAX Jim Danneskiold at (505) 665-5552.
'Smart skin' payload reduces satellite weight
Satellites with sensor panels are allowing engineers to combine a satellite's functional and structural systems into a single component. A payload from Los Alamos National Laboratory incorporates sensors that detect X-rays, infrared lasers, and radio signals, as well as associated electronics, into a panel about the size of a sheet of writing paper and less than one inch thick. Engineers also shrunk electronics contained in separate boxes. "We were able to put the equivalent of a computer workstation onto a single circuit board," says Pete Murray of Los Alamos' Nonproliferation and International Security. The technology reduces satellite weight and power requirements, and may find use on airplane wings or drones used for battlefield surveillance, says Murray.
The world's most powerful UV laser?
A 45-kilojoule ultraviolet laser the size of a football field may help engineers at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) and the Department of Energy to unlock the secrets of nuclear fusion. The "Omega" laser will focus 60 laser beams at a tiny target of hydrogen fuel to heat and compress--and eventually fuse--hydrogen atoms to release energy. The system will allow scientists to study the conditions necessary to ignite and sustain a fusion reaction more closely than was previously possible. Scientists hope the laser will further efforts to harness nuclear fusion as a reliable energy source. For more information, FAX Jean Steve in New York at (716) 256-2586.
'Fingerprinting' system hangs up on cellular-phone frauds
Cellular-phone fraud--an expensive problem--is now more difficult thanks to a radio-frequency "fingerprinting" technology. The PhonePrint system from Corsair Communications, Palo Alto, CA, uses a wide-area network to detect and cut off fraudulent cellular calls. Using System Builder development tools from VenturCom, Cambridge, MA, engineers designed the system to measure the unique physical characteristics of each phone's radio signal as it enters the cellular system. Within seconds, the system measures the signal and cuts off "clone" calls, say engineers. For more information, FAX Bill Taliaferro at Corsair, (415) 493-3588, or VenturCom at (617) 577-1607.
Ultrasonic tool-head improves cutting method
To improve cutting techniques for high-strength or brittle materials such as glass, ceramics, composites, and sintered materials, engineers at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) and the Institute for Aviation at the Dresden University of Technology have invented an ultrasonic tool-head. The head is designed to be used with diamond-tipped tools for drilling, milling, reaming, and turning high-strength materials. The tool vibrates at an amplitude of 10 to 20 micrometers, and uses a piezoelectric ceramic converter in a rotating spindle connected to the Morse taper of the machine tool. Advantages include extended tool life, good surface-finish, and close cutting tolerances, say engineers.
Extinguishing sprinkler fights fire with foam
A new foam sprinkler system designed by engineers at Israel's Technion Research and Development Foundation, Ltd., may take the place of water in fire-extinguishing systems for hotels, offices, and industrial buildings. The system needs no air supply--only a water source and a foam concentrate tank. The system feeds solution through a small applicator at pressures of 3-5 atm and a water flow rate of 10-50 liters/minute, and produces foam expansion at an air/water ratio of 50:100. Because foam uses little water to deprive fire of oxygen, it would reduce the damage done by conventional water-based systems. For details, FAX the Technion in Israel at +972-4-210531.
Weight-measuring device is flexible and portable
A prototype 0.5-cm-thick weight scale developed at Israel's Technion Research and Development Foundation, Ltd., promises to simplify weight measurements of anything from babies to tractors. Unlike a conventional scale with a rigid platform, the new scale uses a pliable mattress that can be folded or rolled for storage. The scale's sensor surface measures the pressure produced by an object and gauges the resultant force electronically. It is accurate to +-0.35 ounces when weighing objects up to 55 lbs, say Technion engineers. The scale communicates output to a cordless digital display, and has potential for monitoring elevators, aircraft, and highway vehicles to protect against overload. For details, FAX the Technion's Business Development Unit in Haifa, Israel at +972-4-320845.
Thermal imager withstands the heat of wafer production
A new microsensor developed at the University of Michigan helps engineers measure the precise temperatures needed to produce high-quality semiconductor wafers. Without touching the surface of the wafer, the thermal imager senses heat or infrared radiation emitted during the fabrication process and converts it immediately into an electronic signal. Because it measures temperatures across the entire wafer simultaneously, the thermal imager can alert engineers immediately if undesirable "cold spots" develop on the wafer surface. The microsensor includes on-chip electronics, works at room temperature, and is inexpensive to produce, say University engineers. Potential applications include medical devices, consumer products, and steel and glass production. For more information, FAX Henia Kamil at the University at (313) 747-0079.
Cooling device shrinks sensor size, power requirements
A miniature cooling component under development at Stirling Technology Corp., Richland, WA, and Pacific Northwest Laboratory promises to reduce the size and power requirements of sensors used in environmental cleanup, medical diagnostic, and telecommunications equipment. The cooling device will replace liquid nitrogen and heavy electrically driven cooling systems and will extend sensor life, say engineers. "We believe we can create a much smaller, more-efficient cooling system that will allow the entire sensor to fit inside a lightweight metal pipe about ten inches long and an inch-and-a-quarter in diameter," says PNL researcher Ronald Brodzinski. The firms recently received a $100,000 grant from the DOE's Technology Transfer program. For details, FAX Brodzinski at (509) 372-0672, or FAX Stirling at (509) 736-3660.
Thin-film coatings offer flat-panel benefits
A thin-film coating under development at Advanced Refractory Technologies (ART), Buffalo, NY, and Phillips Laboratory of Kirtland AFB in New Mexico may improve flat-panel displays used in laptop computers, automotive global positioning systems, and air-combat military devices. DYLYN diamond-like coatings consist of two interpenetrating networks: one based on carbon, the other on silicon. The films provide low-friction, highly adherent, corrosion-resistant coatings and can be tailored by incorporating other materials such as metals for specific properties such as electrical conductivity or resistivity. Engineers hope the coatings will overcome erosion and mechanical failure of conventional cathode materials for high-power microwave devices. For details, FAX ART at (716) 875-0106.
Continuous fuel injection boosts rotary diesel engine
Engineers working on a patented axial-vane rotary engine have now expanded their efforts to include a diesel version. Patrick Badgley of Reg Technologies Inc., Richmond, Canada, designed a diesel Rand Cam engine that uses continuous--rather than intermittent--pressure fuel injection. Two design configurations use either 12 or 16 vanes and a single high-pressure spray nozzle in each stator housing. The nozzle operates continuously, and the result is a low-cost, less complex engine, says Badgley. The design also greatly lowers the technical risk associated with intermittent-type diesel fuel-injection systems, say engineers. In addition, the feature eliminates the limitations on engine rotation speed imposed by conventional fuel injection. Reg engineers hope that the improvement, coupled with the elimination of vane seals, will double the engine's output by allowing it to run at higher rpms. They predict that the engine will be more durable and will offer lower noise, weight, and emissions than traditional designs. For details, FAX Reg Technologies at (604) 278-3409.