Weekly Tech Roundup | Jun 22, 2018

Weekly tech roundup: hyperlocal weather app, determining seafloor density (and more)

TechLink’s purpose 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 six leading-edge inventions to our database that could give your business an advantage in today’s competitive marketplace. Our lineup includes an app that is configured to generate a weather forecast optimized for where you are standing as well as a more sophisticated sediment model for determining seafloor density.

Here is the full roundup:

Where-you-are-standing weather app

The weather app on your smartphone is likely based on a model run every six hours, which might be OK for planning a weekend picnic but is inadequate for real-time decision making. The forecast is also likely based on global-scale weather models featuring coarse resolutions. For instance, current models used by forecasting entities may use a horizontal grid resolution of approximately 30-60 miles for a forecast covering an area of 600 miles. Using global-scale models alone may suffice in non-dynamic weather conditions, but they fail if weather conditions are changing rapidly or if the local area features significant terrain or dramatic land-use transitions.

Hyperlocal weather forecasting is very important for the Army, which has developed an app for a smartphone configured to generate a weather forecast optimized for a local geographic zone – where you are standing.

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Determining seafloor density

Physical models of seafloor density, sound speed, thermal conductivity, electrical resistivity, and other properties depend significantly on porosity (or void fraction – a measure of the empty spaces in a material). Sound speed and shear (a sound wave traveling through a solid) speed also depend significantly on vertical effective stress, critical porosity, and temperature. Knowing the stress-strain relationship for each layer in a column of sediment allows estimation of the porosity from deposition at the seafloor to sublayers. Porosity estimates can be used to determine numerous sediment geophysical parameters and implement existing models, such as sediment physics models, thermal property models, permeability models, and resistivity models, which can be combined to create an extensive physical model of the sediment.

Navy researchers have developed more sophisticated sediment models in which porosity is determined for each sediment layer in a column based on historical data or direct measurement.

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Ultra-low power solid state device for determining light intensity

Spectral radiometers are widely used to measure the spectrum of emitted, transmitted, or reflected light. Applications of spectral radiometers include monitoring in such fields as environmental (Sun, water, soil, flora), production control (liquids, solids, solutions), medicine (tissue, blood, drugs), optoelectronics (light emitters), trade (food, and other perishable goods) and military and security operations (object identification and sensing). Current spectral radiometers generally require either sophisticated optical components for beam forming and diffraction, refined electronic components for the signal readout, or moving parts which often lead to high production costs. Furthermore, conventional spectral radiometry systems are shock-sensitive, require long measurement times, and they consume considerable amounts of electrical power, limiting their use in remote applications.

Navy scientists and engineers have created a novel spectral radiometer system that measures the incoming light intensity and its spectral distribution in different wavelength bands. The system offers very high sensitivity to incoming light and outstanding linearity of the detector response over several orders of magnitude of the light.

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While developed for military applications, the Army's knee and elbow pads have the ability to stop a 9mm pistol round, they could also be used to improve the protective gear worn during sports, e.g., hockey, mountain biking, or motocross.

Knee and elbow pads with abrasion and ballistic protection

Most body armor is designed to protect the head and torso, but a 2007 study of troops injured in combat indicated 54 percent of wounds were to the extremities. Protecting arms and legs are complicated by the need for high maneuverability and low weight. While the torso can support heavy protection, the limbs cannot.

Army researchers have developed 100 and 200-gram knee and elbow pads that can stop a 9mm pistol round. While developed for military applications, the technology could also be used to improve the protective gear worn during sports, e.g., playing hockey, mountain biking, or horseback riding.

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Fluidized bed detector (FBD) for continuous ultra-sensitive detection of biological and chemical materials

There is a need for sensors for materials such as chemicals, bacterial toxins, and viruses at small concentrations in a large volume of media, where the media is a solvent, such as water, a solid, or a gas or a mixture of media such as food, which contains all three states.

Live bioassays have a number of issues that limit their use. For example, the living organism must be kept alive. This requires some care and feeding even when the sensor is not being actively used. And live bioassays that use complex organisms, such as canaries, may respond to other factors that do not cause appreciable concern for humans, such as temperature and transportation stress. And the interpretation of the response of the complex organism may be difficult in varying environments.

The testing technology is often a grab-and-sample type of test, (the preconcentrator is run for a given amount of time, a sample of the concentrate is taken, and the sample tested.) This process can be repeated on a periodic timescale but as most tests are single-use where consumption of reagents can be substantial, the frequency of testing is often limited. Most immunoassays are single use; an example being the lateral-flow immunoassays used in home pregnancy testing.

Navy scientists have overcome these problems with a device for continuous detection of biological and chemical materials comprising a fluidized bed of detecting elements suspended in a continuous flow system.

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Volume control of atmospheric plasma jets

Atmospheric pressure plasmas have certain advantages in materials synthesis and processing that are not available with other approaches including low-pressure plasmas. Because they do not need to be applied in a pressure controlled reaction vessel, they are ideally suited for production line incorporation. Further, the breadth of reactions afforded by non-equilibrium, low-temperature plasmas makes them particularly advantageous.

One type of non-equilibrium, atmospheric pressure plasmas, often referred to as plasma jets, are well-suited for such applications given their relatively simple design, flexible electrode geometry, and modest power requirements. Plasma jets are created when a discharge generated in a gas flow, usually a pure or diluted noble gas flowing through a dielectric tube, leaves the region of confinement and propagates through the surrounding air. To date, it has been difficult to produce jet systems that can scale to treat large surface areas, and as a result, the maximum treatment areas are generally limited to about 1 cm2 (the radius of the plasma jet). There are alternative solutions to this issue but they tend to scale linearly with power requirements and are hampered by complexity.

Navy researchers have addressed this problem with a device that increases the spatial volume of atmospheric pressure plasma jets without the use of additional power supplies, circuits, or electrodes.

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Headshot Image of Austin Leach, PhD, CLP

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