bite out of crime
McGruff the dog has a new tool for fighting crime, thanks to David Hathaway and Paul Meyer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL). The researchers are using their experience analyzing and enhancing satellite video to help the FBI and other law enforcement officials catch criminals that are captured on tape. The two men developed software called VISAR (Video Image Stabilization and Registration) that enabled them to make clear images from videotape that is jittery and out of focus. They started development of the technology when the FBI approached them after the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta. Hathaway and Meyer successfully clarified nighttime videotape made by attendees with handheld camcorders that revealed important details about the bomb and explosion. "It gives me great satisfaction to help police put criminals behind bars," says Hathaway. He indicated that several companies are currently interested in putting the software on a chip that could be embedded in camcorders and other video equipment. Commercial interest in VISAR is based on its ability to do more than remove noise and snow from videotapes. VISAR also corrects for horizontal and vertical camera motion and rotation and zoom effects. Additional applications for the software include defense and medical uses. NASA is accepting licensing applications and commercialization plans at the Marshall Technology Transfer Dept. For technical questions contact Hathaway at (256) 544-7610 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Meyer's e-mail address is email@example.com . Persons interested in commercializing the software should contact Sam Nabors at (256) 544-5226.
Unlocking the mysteries of fluid
Who cares about neutrons? Mark Wendell does. He's a heat transfer and fluid flow specialist at Oak Ridge National Lab, one of six Department of Energy labs examining how small particles behave. Wendell uses computational fluid dynamics to model the flow of fluid for predicting temperatures, velocities, and pressures. In his work, liquid mercury is circulated through a target box which contains a material from which protons spallate or "knock out" neutrons, and to remove heat from the proton beam. Visualization software called EnSight from Computational Engineering Int'l. (Morrisville, SC) is helping Wendell "see" the process. EnSight software reads and visualizes the results of FEA (finite element analysis) codes. "We can observe secondary flow patterns in the animations that are not evident from still graphics," explains Wendell. "By visualizing the fluid flow, we can identify problems with the target design and recommend changes." He says understanding how small particles work leads to advances in materials and a variety of industrial technologies. Contact Wendell at (865) 574-2825 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Redundant load paths key to stronger
Ever been at the grocery store and noticed how difficult it is to tear the plastic mesh bags in which fruits are often packaged? Erian Armanios and Stefan Dancila have noticed, and their observations are leading to a way of making cables and tethers stronger. The key is a common engineering practice: redundant load paths. "We set out to devise a structure that would induce a load redistribution mechanism, forcing repeated fracture of fibers," says Dancila. "This mechanism, the redundant load path, increases the energy dissipated," he says. The researchers determined that the structure of cables and tethers would be stronger if it gradually tore at multiple locations as force increased, rather than fracturing all at once. Armed with an understanding of typical failure mechanisms in one-directional, fiber-reinforced composite materials, they tested their theory using glass-fiber-reinforced packaging tape as a strap-like structure. Their experiments confirmed that the glass-fiber-reinforced tape experienced partial failures along the redundant load paths before the straps completely failed. The straps with redundant load paths required more energy to break the entire structure compared to an unmodified strap without redundant load paths. The researchers are conducting additional experiments and talking with NASA about applications on an inflatable space structure with flexible composite webbing. They also see applications in mountain climbing ropes and helicopter seat restraints. For more information, call Erian Armanios at (404) 894-8202 or e-mail email@example.com .