Imagine a wireless system that's truly wireless. It doesn't need a battery or a receiver, unlike most "wireless" sensors that must be electrically connected to a power source, so it can safely be put almost anywhere. That's the genius of a new NASA technology that is one of the top 100 innovations of the year according to R&D magazine.
Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., developed the Magnetic Field Response Measurement Acquisition System as an easier and more efficient way to use sensors on aircraft and spacecraft as well as other vehicles.
Image to left: The team of Stanley E. Woodard, Qamar Shams, Bryant D. Taylor (from left to right) and the late Robert Fox (not pictured) won an R&D 100 Award for a wireless sensor system that doesn't need a battery or a receiver. The team at NASA Langley developed the Magnetic Field Response Measurement Acquisition System as an easier and more efficient way to use sensors on aircraft and spacecraft as well as other vehicles.
NASA Langley scientists initially came up with the idea of the measurement acquisition system to improve aviation safety. They say airplanes could use this technology in a number of locations. One would be fuel tanks where a wireless sensor would virtually eliminate the possibility of fires and explosions from faulty wires arcing or sparking.
Another would be landing gear. That was where the system was tested in partnership with landing gear manufacturer, Messier-Dowty, Ontario, Canada. A prototype was installed in a landing gear shock strut to measure hydraulic fluid levels. The technology allowed the company to easily measure levels while the gear was moving for the first time ever and cut the time to check the fluid level from five hours to one second.
"The cool thing about this system is that we can make sensors that don't need any connections to anything," said Dr. Stanley E. Woodard, senior scientist at NASA Langley. "And we can completely encapsulate them in any electrically nonconductive material, so they can be put in lots of different locations and protected from the environment around them. Plus we can measure different properties using the same sensor."
Traditional sensors use electrical signals to measure characteristics, such as weight, temperature, and others. NASA's new technology is a small hand-held unit that uses magnetic fields to power sensors and gather measurements from them. That eliminates wires and the need for direct contact between the sensor and the data acquisition system.
"Measurements that were difficult to do before because of implementation logistics and environment are now easy with our technology," said Woodard. He is one of four researchers at NASA Langley recognized by the 44th Annual R&D 100 Awards in the electronic equipment category. Other members on the team are Bryant D. Taylor, Dr. Qamar Shams and the late Robert Fox. The team will be honored along with other winners at a black-tie gala at Chicago's Navy Pier, Oct. 19.
The R&D 100 Awards are so prestigious the Chicago Tribune has called them the "Oscars of Invention."
In its write-up R&D magazine said: "the winners of the 2006 R&D 100 Awards will have a definitive impact on research, industry, and daily life. This annual competition recognizes excellence in innovation—on a global scale. Indeed, the technologies and techniques (of this years winners) are among the most innovative ideas from today’s technology powerhouses in academia, government, and industry, worldwide."
NASA Langley researchers say their Magnetic Field Response Measurement Acquisition System isn't limited to vehicles. It also has potential uses in many aspects of every day life.
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