Iranian Researcher to Help NASA Explore Deep Space

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Iranian professor at the University of Maine, the United States, is developing a “battery-free wireless sensor communication system” to help NASA’s dream for exploring deep space by using battery-free sensors come true.

NASA is on a mission to fly wireless in space one day, and a University of Maine researcher is developing the technology that he believes can help make that happen.

Ali Abedi, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is working on a new kind of battery-free wireless sensor communication system that he says can perform in harsh environments where the battery-powered sensors now used in NASA’s space shuttle cannot function.

The new sensors can be used as monitors inside the shuttle engine and on the spacecraft’s exterior when reentering Earth’s atmosphere, Abedi says.

The system will also allow NASA to reduce the miles of bundled sensor wires and connectors that now add so much unwanted weight, expense and potential for failure to every space flight.

"The weight of all the wiring is a major issue for the space shuttle," says Abedi, whose research is being funded by a three-year, $360,483 grant from NASA. "There are wired sensors everywhere in the space shuttle. All of them need batteries for power, but batteries explode in extremely hot temperatures and don’t work in very cold temperatures."

Instead of batteries, he says, power for the new system comes from a radio frequency signal that is transmitted to the sensors, which then beams it back with pertinent monitoring data. Abedi likened the process to that of the radar guns police use to check for speeders.

Abedi says the battery-free sensors, which require no maintenance, could also be embedded as temperature and gas monitors in the habitation domes being studied for a future moon colony.
Embedded sensors could also be effective, he says, in monitoring the health of bridges, buildings, dams, tunnels or other structures here on Earth.

The Maine Department of Transportation is interested in the new wireless communication design for use not only in bridges of the future but in very old existing ones, Abedi says, where expensive wired, battery-powered sensor systems may not be economically feasible.

The three-year project will create an opportunity for an educational and research collaborative involving several fields of study, he says, including mechanical and civil engineering for the bridge concept.

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