NEWS | Dec. 31, 2012

Naval Research Laboratory's Top Stories of 2012

By John Ohab

The Naval Research Laboratory published more than 100 news stories in 2012, covering scientific and technical achievements in solar power, ocean optics, space, robotics, and more. Below, we've listed the 12 most viewed stories on NRL's website in 2012, ordered by date of publication.

Navy Researchers Investigate Small-Scale Autonomous Planetary Explorers. Robotic exploration to remote regions, to include distant planetary bodies, is often limited by energy requirements to perform, in repetition, even the simplest tasks. NRL researchers are looking into a novel approach that could some day aid scientific space and planetary research without the need for power-intense options often used today.

Scientists Chart High-Precision Map of Milky Way's Magnetic Fields. NRL scientists are part of an international team that has pooled their radio observations into a database, producing the highest precision map to date of the magnetic field within our own Milky Way galaxy.

NRL Designs Robot for Shipboard Firefighting. To help further improve future shipboard firefighting capability, NRL scientists formed an interdisciplinary team to develop a humanoid robot that could fight fires on the next generation of combatants.

Inside NRL's Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. Alan Schultz, Director of Autonomous Systems Research at NRL, provides an inside look at NRL's new Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research.

NRL Opens Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. NRL's Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research will become the nerve center for basic research that supports autonomous systems research for the Navy and Marine Corps. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held on March 16, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

NRL Researchers Discover New Solar Feature. NRL scientists discovered a previously unreported solar feature, Coronal Cells, where high-temperature coronal emission is confined to discrete plumes that extend upward from unipolar concentrations of magnetic flux. Researchers describe these Coronal Cells as appearing in discrete bundles "like candles on a birthday cake."

Photovoltaic Cells Tap Underwater Solar Energy. NRL scientists dive into underwater photovoltaic research to develop high bandgap solar cells capable of producing sufficient power to operate electronic sensor systems at depths of 9 meters.

NRL Scientists Track Individual Raindrops Inside Clouds. NRL scientists are leading a multi-agency study which reveals that a very high-resolution Doppler radar has the unique capacity to detect individual cloud hydrometeors in the free atmosphere. This study will improve scientists' understanding of the dynamics and structure of cloud systems.

NRL Brings Inertia of Space to Robotics Research. NRL's Spacecraft Engineering Department took possession of a one-of-a-kind 75,000 pound Gravity Offset Table made from a single slab of solid granite. The precision table will allow researchers to precisely simulate the frictionless motion of objects in space and understand the dynamics of docking and servicing satellites on-orbit.

Navy Scientists Demonstrate Breakthrough in Tunnel Barrier Technology. NRL scientists demonstrated, for the first time, the use of graphene as a tunnel barrier — an electrically insulating barrier between two conducting materials through which electrons tunnel quantum mechanically.

Fueling the Fleet, Navy Looks to the Seas. NRL scientists are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently converting the gases into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential payoff is the ability to produce fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy's energy security and independence.

Navy Researchers Look to Rotating Detonation Engines to Power the Future. With its strong dependence on gas-turbine engines for propulsion, the U.S. Navy is always looking for ways to improve the fuel consumption of these engines. NRL scientists are studying the complex physics of Rotating Detonation Engines, which offer the potential for high dollar savings by way of reduced fuel consumption.