Sensors and Sensor networks

  • Nuclear facilities securityY-12 protestors receive lengthy prison terms from judge

    By Robert Lee Maril

    Judge Amul R. Thapar sentenced three peace protestors who breached the Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex at Y-12 National Security Complexat Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to lengthy sentences in federal prison. Judge Thapar stated that he did not believe the three defendants — Sister Megan Rice, 84. Michael R. Walli, 65, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59 — were terrorists but, nevertheless, they had broken the law and must serve sentences which demonstrated that the law should be taken seriously.To reach the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) building at Y-12, the three peace activists, led by the octogenarian Sister Rice, cut through four fences and escaped detection by security guards authorized to use lethal force, and by ground sensors, sophisticated surveillance cameras, and other security equipment described by Y-12 as “…the most stringent security system in the world.”

  • Infrastructure protectionSensors would spot structural weaknesses in bridges, stadiums before they collapse

    A team of engineers, with a grant of $1 million from the government of Qatar, will work to develop a wireless sensor network which will monitor vibrations, sagging, and stresses to assess a structure’s ability to carry its load. The proposed system would not only detect damage after it occurs, but would aim to predict it before it takes place.

  • EarthquakesQuake-vulnerable concrete buildings in Los Angeles area identified

    Researchers have identified nonductile concrete buildings constructed before roughly 1980 in the Los Angeles area. This category of buildings is known from experience in previous earthquakes to have the potential for catastrophic collapse during strong earthquakes. Nonductile concrete buildings were a prevalent construction type in seismically active zones of the United States before the enforcement of codes for ductile concrete which were introduced in the mid-1970s. A companion study estimates that approximately 17,000 nonductile reinforced concrete buildings are located in the most highly seismic areas of California. More than seventy-five million Americans in thirty-nine states live in towns and cities at risk for earthquake devastation.

  • Search and rescueSmartphones to help find avalanche victims

    Not a winter goes by without an avalanche incident. In the search for those buried beneath the snow, every second counts. On average, rescuers have fifteen minutes to recover victims alive. This is why an avalanche transceiver is an essential piece of kit for anyone spending significant time off-piste. These transceivers do not come cheap, however, ranging in price from 200 and over 500 euros — perhaps one reason why many walkers and skiers still do not carry one with them. Now smartphones equipped with functions of an avalanche transceiver should help locate the victims quickly.

  • Planetary security“Space cops” to help control traffic in space, prevent satellites from colliding

    Collisions in space of satellites and space debris have become increasingly problematic. A team of scientists are using mini-satellites that work as “space cops” to help control traffic in space. The scientists used a series of six images over a 60-hour period taken from a ground-based satellite to prove that it is possible to refine the orbit of another satellite in low earth orbit.

  • EarthquakesIsrael considering earthquake-proofing important Biblical-period structures

    Israel is located in one of the world’s earthquake-prone areas, along the friction point of the African and Arabian tectonic plates.Officials in Israel are taking preventative measures to protect the country’s most important ancient sites from earthquake damage. Engineers from the University of Padua in Italy have installed sensors throughout the Tower of David, one of Jerusalem most important historical sites, to determine what sort of earthquake-proofing may be needed. Some experts opined that in the event of an earthquake, Jerusalem’s most ancient structures might actually be the city’s most dependable. “If they still stand after so many earthquakes during the last 2,000 years, they must be good structures,” one of them said.

  • DetectionThumbnail-sized quantum cascade laser, tuning forks detect greenhouse gases

    Human activities such as agriculture, fossil fuel combustion, wastewater management, and industrial processes are increasing the amount of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. The warming impact of methane and nitrous oxide is more than 20 and 300 times, respectively, greater compared to the most prevalent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, over a 100-year period. Methane and nitrous oxide detection is crucial to environmental considerations. Scientists use a thumbnail-sized quantum cascade laser (QCL) as well as tuning forks that cost no more than a dime to detect very small amounts of nitrous oxide and methane.

  • DetectionHighly sensitive tactile e-whiskers for robotics, other applications

    From the world of nanotechnology we have gotten electronic skin, or e-skin, and electronic eye implants or e-eyes. Now we are on the verge of electronic whiskers. Researchers have created tactile sensors from composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles similar to the highly sensitive whiskers of cats and rats. E-whiskers could be used to mediate tactile sensing for the spatial mapping of nearby objects, and could also lead to wearable sensors for measuring heartbeat and pulse rate.

  • DetectionNew system uses low-power Wi-Fi signal to track moving humans -- even behind walls

    By Helen Knight

    The comic-book hero Superman uses his X-ray vision to spot bad guys lurking behind walls and other objects. Now we could all have X-ray vision, thanks to a new system developed by researchers at MIT. The system, called “Wi-Vi,” is based on a concept similar to radar and sonar imaging. But in contrast to radar and sonar, it transmits a low-power Wi-Fi signal and uses its reflections to track moving humans. It can do so even if the humans are in closed rooms or hiding behind a wall.

  • EarthquakesBetter earthquake early-warning system

    Geophysicists have developed a new way of calculating the magnitude of an imminent earthquake by making better use of measurements of the compression waves produced early in the event. They say that the technique could be used to create a better early-warning system for earthquakes that could be used worldwide.

  • DisastersModeling earthquakes and explosives reactions

    Researchers are developing mathematical models that can help in reducing rock fracturing and soil liquefaction caused by natural or man-made disasters. The outcomes of the research could improve safety levels in the mining and petroleum industries, and play a critical role in the ability of civil infrastructure to withstand disasters such as earthquakes and explosions.

  • Venture capitalPyreos, ultra‐low power consumption IR sensor specialist, secures $4 million investment

    Edinburgh, Scotland-based Pyreos Limited, a specialist in ultra‐low power consumption infrared sensor technology, the other day announced plans for international expansion after securing a further funding round of $4 million. It is possible to use Pyreos sensor arrays in many applications, among them border security, where they can identify human movement at distances of several kilometers.

  • In the trenchesSqueezing light improves performance of MEMS sensors

    Microelectromechanical systems, known as MEMS, are ubiquitous in modern military systems such as gyroscopes for navigation, tiny microphones for lightweight radios, and medical biosensors for assessing the wounded. Such applications benefit from the portability, low power, and low cost of MEMS devices. The use of MEMS sensors is now commonplace, but they still operate many orders of magnitude below their theoretical performance limits, due to two obstacles: thermal fluctuations and random quantum fluctuations, a barrier known as the standard quantum limit.

  • DetectionSmartphone technology to accelerate development of unattended sensors

    DARPA wants to develop low-cost, rapidly updatable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors – to be used by the military on the ground, in the air, at sea, and undersea – in less than a year, a marked improvement to the current three-to-eight year development process. It hopes to do so by using an original design manufacturer (ODM) process similar to that of the commercial smartphone industry.

  • SurveillanceLarge robotic jellyfish to patrol the oceans

    The Office of Naval Research wants to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors, and monitoring ocean currents. Researchers have built a device for that purpose — a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish the size and weight of a grown man, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds.