Weekly Tech Roundup | Jul 13, 2018

Weekly tech roundup: safer parachute canopy release, noninvasive brain diagnostic system (and more)

TechLink’s goal is to help businesses and entrepreneurs across America gain access to Department of Defense inventions so they can turn them into new products and services.

In the last week, we added eight novel inventions to our portfolio that your business could license and use to stay at the forefront of your industry. Our lineup includes a parachute canopy release that enables activation while a jumper is being dragged on his or her stomach as well as a brain diagnostic method and system that will help identify various neurological conditions such as MS and Alzheimer’s.

Here is the full roundup:

Four-bar side parachute canopy release

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center has designed a parachute canopy release assembly that enables activation while a jumper is being dragged on his or her chest and stomach. Modern parachutes have a release assembly that quickly separates the parachute canopy from the jumper after landing. This reduces the chances of the jumper getting dragged along the ground and enables her to quickly begin other tasks.

Solid mechanical release assemblies traditionally require a piece of steel hardware to be sewn into the parachute harness, creating an attachment point. Activation of the release permits the separation of the canopy and causes a significantly sized piece of metal to pass by the head and face of the jumper.

The Army's new mechanism can be triggered in two ways – from the front of the torso or laterally, toward the left or right. This design also removes hardware from the riser, minimizing the risk of metal passing near the head of the user upon activation.

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Diagnosing brain conditions by combining imaging modalities and novel algorithm

Navy researchers have developed a noninvasive diagnostic to evaluate the anisotropic viscoelastic properties of fibrous structures, such as muscle tissue or the neuronal pathways in the human brain, through the use of sound.

Specific applications include the identification of various neurological conditions such as ALS, MS, Alzheimer’s, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), as well as various diseases in muscle tissue such as degeneration and myocardial infarction in the heart.

This detection is enabled through the evaluation of the appropriate anisotropic models and corresponding material coefficients such that they may be used as metrics for correlation with pathology. The system is based on the fusion of two FDA approved clinical measurement modalities of MRE and DTI, and an adaptive anisotropic inversion algorithm.

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Optically initiated ammunition

Most conventional cartridge systems are initiated by use of a center-fire based primer within a metal casing. Such primers are typically triggered through electrical or mechanical (firing pin) means, in systems used across small, medium, and large caliber gun systems. Electrical initiation is faster, involves fewer moving parts and is becoming more common. While electrical ignition is reliable, electrical-based primers are susceptible to premature ignition.

As an alternative, Army scientists have developed a novel initiation system utilizing LEDs. These tiny, low-cost devices can be inserted directly into the body of the cartridge with minimal technical challenges and only minor modification to fabrication and assembly equipment. The substitution does not affect the weight, performance, form, fit, or function of existing weapons hardware.

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Navy researchers have devised a biomimetics approach to developing coatings that duplicate the unique, on-demand adhesion properties of the gecko’s footpad.

Reusable and environmentally benign conductive polymer appliqué coating

The Department of Defense relies on multi-component protective coatings to maintain operational readiness of aircraft and ground vehicles. These coatings—used on ships, aircraft, and combat vehicles—perform a variety of functions, including protecting the surface from moisture, heat, and corrosion from salt spray and other chemicals. These paints must be removed from the metal to allow repair of failed paint systems and reworking of metal parts that have been damaged due to corrosion.

Navy researchers have devised a biomimetics approach to developing coatings that duplicate the unique, on-demand adhesion properties of the gecko’s footpad. Rather than relying on the weak, van der Waals forces of the gecko’s footpad, however, strong ionic bonds are utilized in this corrosion-inhibiting coating system, applicable to aluminum, steel, and composite surfaces.

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High-speed infrared communications with DPPM

Navy scientists have optimized the use of Differential Pulse Position Modulation (DPPM) to speed infrared communications.

The current invention includes an encoder that converts data from a set of parallel digital lines to a single data stream. This data stream is optimized for transmission using an infrared LED. However, it can also be used with several alternate channels. The optimization involves limiting the amount of time the LED is on to conserve power, as well as allowing a receiver to decode the data, converting it back to parallel digital data, without requiring a synchronized clock.

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Light-activated piezoelectric converter

Navy researchers have invented a piezoelectric cantilever that generates electricity for powering small devices.

A force or stress applied to a piezoelectric material leads to an electric charge being induced across the material. Conversely, the application of a charge or electric field to the same material results in a change in strain or mechanical deformation. A piezoelectric cantilever is a configuration utilizing this property for various means such as sensing, actuation, and energy harvesting.

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Improved electrically small antenna

We are surrounded by tiny devices radiating or receiving RF signals with electrically small antennas (ESAs). Such devices are continually monitoring our environment, health, security, and other critical domains. But there are limitations to how small these devices can go. One such limitation is driven by the decreases in radiating efficiency and bandwidth as antennas get smaller.

Navy engineers have worked this problem and developed a novel ESA which exceeds the Chu Limit—a fundamental principle of electromagnetics which dictates that the functional bandwidth of an antenna has a maximum level proportional to the physical size of the antenna. The smaller the antenna, the smaller the bandwidth and the slower and less capable the communications link.

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Coherent laser sources radiating in the mid- and longwave IR and THz wavelength ranges

Coherent laser sources radiating in the mid- and longwave IR and THz wavelength ranges are in great demand due to their suitability for a wide variety of defense, security, science, industry, and medical applications. However, current offerings are overly large in size, need cooling for proper operation, demonstrate limited output power, and are poorly tunable.

Air Force researchers have combined the advantages of an inorganic wideband semiconductor and an organic crystalline material. As a result of this invention, the development of the next-generation high-power, high-brightness, frequency-agile, room-temperature operating, compact coherent laser sources in the IR and THz spectral ranges is made possible. The new sources may be suitable for use in laser radar, high-speed IR communications, civil security through remote sensing of chemical and biological agents with scanners, biopsy-free detection and visualization of cancer cells, environmental sensing, industrial production, and spectroscopy applications.

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Headshot Image of Austin Leach, PhD, CLP

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