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Feb 2, 2018 | By Laci McDowell

Weekly Tech Roundup: Invisible Shield for Space Electronics, Laser-formed Electronic Interconnects

These innovative electronics technologies are available to businesses to license and develop into new products and services. TechLink can help.

News Article Image of Weekly Tech Roundup: Invisible Shield for Space Electronics, Laser-formed Electronic Interconnects

Electronics of all forms have become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. That dependence provokes an expectation that the technology will always be at the forefront of innovation. Defense laboratories are responding by rapidly developing cutting-edge electronics technologies.

Included in this week’s compilation are some of the military’s most advanced electronics inventions, many with dual uses that make them attractive for commercial development.

Here are all 12, in no particular order:

Invisible shield for space electronics: When a spacecraft travels from Earth’s surface, protection from the magnetic fields diminishes, and the performance characteristics of electronic circuits contained within the vessel are at increased risk of degradation caused by charged particles that collide with the space vehicle. To recreate the protection provided by Earth’s magnetic field, Navy researchers have developed a magnetically shielded circuit board and integrated circuit package.

Laser-formed electronic interconnects: Traditional approaches to the manufacture of printed circuit boards are not compatible with a new generation of electronic systems that call for electronic circuits to be conformal, flexible, and hybrid. Navy researchers have tackled one of the most challenging problems by replacing the way the interconnects on circuits are generated. Their solution extends the work in laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT) of discrete devices to include the removal of metallic interconnects and commercial solder pastes.

Device to test circuit continuity utilizing three methods: Devices that can be used to perform continuity tests include multimeters which rely on analog voltage measurements and adjustable current sources. Such devices are limited and do not meet the needs of digital systems. Navy scientists and engineers have developed a continuity testing system that uses digital IO without the need for an adjustable current source or analog voltage measurement.

Accurate measurement of a frequency with added benefits of measurement of tone, amplitude, and phase: To achieve greater precision in frequency measurements, Air Force researchers have developed a device that efficiently performs frequency measurements without the introduction of bias and discretization.

RF to an intermediate frequency (IF) downconverter: The Navy has developed a device that enables complex response measurements of pulsed two-port RF devices while operating in a target system such as a radar transmitter, including insertion gain, insertion phase, residual phase noise, error vector magnitude, AM noise, and group delay. The conversion has increased accuracy, repeatability, excellent dynamic range, and decreased measurement time.

Surveillance data processor performance monitoring: Electronic surveillance (ES) systems are used on all modern Navy ships and receive RF signatures in the form of pulse data. The data is digitized and processed to identify and determine the nature of the signals – threatening or non-threatening. To address the increase in data and difficulty in analysis, the Navy has developed a PDW collector and extractor to collect all RF pulse data as the ES system receives it without impacting normal ES operations.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Conducts a fueling-at-sea (FAS) with USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204)
PHILIPPINE SEA – The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard is operating in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a regularly scheduled patrol and provides a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster. (Kyle Carlstrom/U.S. Navy)

Photonic analog-to-digital converter: An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is a device that transforms a physical electromagnetic signal into a signal that can be processed by a computer.  The Navy has developed and patented a photonic ADC that converts a continuous physical quantity (voltage) to a digital number that represents the quantity’s amplitude.

Measurement and calibration of traveling-wave tubes: Navy researchers have developed a tube measurement and calibration system including a network analyzer for measuring tube radio frequency phase, a calibration adapter for tuning tube radio frequency power and phase, an amplifier for boosting input radio frequency power into the tube, and a rigid coaxial cable for communication between all of these components. Proper tuning of these tubes is essential for active electronic jamming and satellite communications.

Backplane test device: A backplane is an electronic circuit board containing slots into which additional electronic devices (generally found on other circuit boards or cards) are connected. The Navy has developed a backplane test system that is low cost, compact, easy to use, and simple to manufacture. It also doesn’t require the use of additional hardware or software.

Single electronic testing system covers many instruments and devices: Software protocols for testing electronic devices are created by experts who understand both the devices and the programming language specific to each. Writing test scripts is tedious work and those managing and working in this space are always looking for reliable, efficient shortcuts. Navy scientists have developed a testing application that is extensible across devices – not only to those within a class such as phones but also to other electronics.

Electrical contact between rotating components: Fully-rotatable turrets are used in the military – commonly placed on Humvees and other smaller vehicles – to provide access through the roof whereby a soldier can operate a gun or other equipment.  These basic turret designs can also be seen in fire and law enforcement vehicles and on construction and maintenance vehicles. Often devices used by operators standing or sitting in the turret require electrical power. Turret rotation can cause cables to tangle on equipment or personnel, which can quickly lead to disconnections and loss of power. Navy researchers have developed a way to connect power to the rotating ring assembly of the turret from the cabin with no wires passing through the turret.

Triaxial cable to banana jack electrical connector: Source measurement units (SMUs) are instruments that can precisely source voltage or current while simultaneously measuring voltage and current. SMU’s often include banana jack terminals for connecting to the device under test. Consequently, they do not accept input from devices through triaxial cable. The Navy has created a solution to this problem with a device that connects each triaxial cable conducting component (core, center, outer) to three separate banana jacks (core, guard, and ground).

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