Throw your weight into the right scale
Converting static scales to weigh-in-motion systems may be the key to reducing mistakes made when loading U.S. military vehicles on transport planes and ships. “With our weigh-in-motion scale, the military could weigh and determine the center of balance of moving vehicles five times faster than with existing technologies,” says Dave Beshears, who heads a development team from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL, Oak Ridge, TN) Engineering Technology Division. “The system would also reduce the number of mistakes caused by the manual nature of calculating and putting in data.” Combined with other enabling technologies such as profilometry to determine the exterior profile of a vehicle, advanced communication systems and information and decision support systems, the weigh-in-motion will take the military closer to “fort-to-port zero staging,” Beshears says. He predicts the conversion will be no more than $10,000 per system. Conventional technology used to weigh vehicles is labor intensive and time consuming, he says. The weigh-in- motion system offers high accuracy, proven feasibility and no construction cost or down time. Existing scales could be retrofitted into weigh-in-motion systems through the installation of low-cost hardware and a computer for analyzing the scale output and converting it. In addition to its military applications, Beshears expects the weigh-in-motion system to be useful for converting static truck scales along the highways. FAX: (423) 576-0279 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Automating naval warfare
An enemy missile strikes the ship. Without skipping a beat, the warship continues to fight. Such is the promise of the next generation of warships under development at Purdue University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (West Lafayette, IN). “One goal [of the program] is to build a ship that does not need any maintenance while at sea,” says Scott Sudhoff, an associate professor at Purdue. “It’s supposed to be highly robust so that, even if you take a missile hit, that ship could continue with its mission without needing any maintenance until it returns to port.” The key to this “new” kind of vessel is a system that automatically reroutes power around sections of a ship that are damaged in war, enabling the continued functioning of weapons, navigation, and communication equipment. The U.S. Navy hopes to have the first “smart ships” in operation by the end of the decade. Call: (765) 494-3246 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A search engine for corporations
Examine company-wide documents, engineering files, and manufacturing data within seconds. Such was the dream of high-tech venture Maxim/IT, a start-up company in the Purdue Research Park. The dream became a reality with Find?View, a corporate network (intranet) search engine that accesses corporate network data with the speed and efficiency of a Yahoo or NorthernLight.com. Based on Java, the platform-independent program weaves through an intranet’s indexing information from various systems, servers, locations, directories and even supplier catalogs. “We developed Find?View because access to information should never be an obstacle in the corporate world,” said Nainesh Rathod, president and chief executive officer of Maxim I/T Inc. Find?View can index information in any form - text, binary or database content—so no HTML conversion is necessary for search engine recognition. Find?View’s new approach to data management makes it possible for a company’s constantly changing product information to be easily cataloged for internal use or external display on the Web, Rathod said. Catalogs that normally take months to develop, whether paper or electronic, can be kept up-to-date without typesetting, proofreading or printing costs. Customers will also have instant look-up capability to find products. Call: (765) 463-4710; or e-mail: nbrathod@maxim-IT.com.
Solar energy sees the light
The on-going struggle to make solar energy consumer friendly and cost effective has broken through the clouds. The “full-spectrum solar energy system,” being developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, Oak Ridge, TN), harnesses the energy found in sunlight and uses that energy more efficiently than is possible with traditional solar energy systems, say researchers. The system being developed by ORNL and industry partners uses roof-mounted two-axis tracking concentrators that separate the visible and infrared portions of the sun’s rays. Using large-diameter optical fibers, the device distributes visible light to interiors of buildings. The system converts infrared, or non-visible, portions of the solar spectrum into electricity. “Instead of inefficiently converting the visible light found in sunlight into electricity only to reconvert a sizeable portion back into interior light, it makes more sense to just collect and distribute the light directly,” said Jeff Muhs, a researcher in ORNL’s Engineering Technology Division. “By using the visible portion of the light spectrum, we can reduce the amount of electricity we consume for lighting commercial buildings. And we can use the other portions of the spectrum to generate electricity.” Models developed at ORNL and independently verified by Antares Engineers & Economists suggest that the overall efficiency and affordability of solar energy can be improved by as much as threefold in commercial buildings when compared to conventional solar technologies.
A new substance developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Professor Jackie Ying and Andrey Zarur, vice president of technology at Starlab in Belgium, could make it easier to burn methane while drastically cutting emissions of pollutants from natural gas power plants. Further, the procedure for creating the material paves the way for ones that could improve other high-temperature processes such as chemical production. The pair created a microscopic reactor from a new barium hexaaluminate (BHA) catalyst via a reverse microemulsion, in which water droplets only nanometers in diameter are suspended in oil. Each droplet is, in effect, a miniscule reactor. That’s because when added to the water-oil mixture, the principal “ingredients” for the catalyst preferentially move from the oil into the water droplets, where they react. A final heat treatment and powder recovery complete the process. The patent-pending procedure is reported in the January 6, 2000 issue of Nature. Call: (617) 258-5402 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Doppler ultrasound eases fetus testing
Yale scientists say they have found a non-invasive technique to detect whether a fetus is anemic: Doppler ultrasound. “Invasive procedures place the fetus in unnecessary danger,” said Giancarlo Mari, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine and the study’s lead author. “In more than 70% of cases, the fetuses tested were either non-anemic or mildly anemic and an invasive procedure could have been either avoided or delayed.” The assessment with Doppler ultrasound of fetal blood velocity, a prime indicator of the problem, detected all the moderately and severely anemic fetuses, with a false positive rate of 15%. A doctor can perform the Doppler study in three to five minutes and it does not pose any risk to the mother and the fetus. The procedure is also far less expensive than traditional methods. “By using Doppler ultrasound we can save about $50 million each year in the United States alone,” said Mari. “The procedure is also easy to perform in the hands of experienced operators.” The data used in the study were compiled at eight medical centers in the United States, Europe, South America and Asia. Call: (203) 432-1326 or e-mail: karen.peart @yale.edu.
A clean cut
Vanderbilt University’s Free Electron Laser (FEL) Center recently made history when an infrared beam of light tuned precisely at 6.45 microns helped to remove a golf-ball sized tumor from a patient’s brain. Researchers at Vanderbilt have conducted scientific experiments as part of the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Medical Free Electron Laser Program during the past decade. Many of these experiments explore the unique tunability and high power capability of the FEL to find the optimum conditions to make clean cuts in tissue. The operation is the first time a free electron laser has been used in a clinical operation. Ultimately, Vanderbilt researchers hope to use the FEL with a computer-assisted guidance system to remove tiny brain tumors near vital nerves and arteries that are too risky to reach with scalpels or conventional medical lasers. The Vanderbilt FEL center is the only facility in the world that produces beams of tunable infrared laser light powerful enough for surgery and is equipped for human operations. The ONR Medical Free Electron Laser Program supports five Free Electron Laser centers in the country, including the one at Vanderbilt. Call: (703) 696-2868 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web service for product data
Shaving time off the development cycle for a product is always the name of the game. Representatives from Aprisa, Inc. (Westlake Village, CA) launched a beta version of CircuitNet to help businesses do just that. The web-based tool will focus on the “discovery” portion of the development cycle—the period between product concept and detailed schematic design. Historically, engineers find reference designs and other technology manually by calling distributor representatives directly and then waiting for product specifications and data books, says Aprisa. This new service will allow engineers to create a hierarchical and iterative conceptual design, with instant object-oriented, rules-based, parametric search of a comprehensive database of the latest reference designs, and other technical information. The CircuitNet service will be available at theCubicle.com in the second quarter of 2000. Call: (805) 495-8177 or e-mail: wcampanella@ aprisainc.com.