NASA engineers have completed tests on a device that opens the path for development of "all-electric" aircraft. Called the Electro-Hydrostatic Actuator, the device eliminates or minimizes airborne dependence on hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical systems. NASA tested the device on the left aileron of its F/A-18 Systems Research Aircraft without using the plane's central hydraulics. Taking its signals from the aircraft's flight-control computers, the device uses its electronics to trick aircraft computers into thinking a standard actuator is on board. Although the device contains a small amount of hydraulic fluid, it uses an electric motor to drive its pump. The force created moves the aileron. For many years, NASA, the Air Force, and the Navy have sought to eliminate heavy hydraulic systems in aircraft in favor of electrical "power-by-wire" systems for operating flight controls. The new device results from the Electrically Powered Actuation Design program of the Air Force.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.