Special Coverage


Patterning of Indium Tin Oxide Films

The patterns are formed by laser printing directly onto the films. A relatively rapid, economical process has been devised for patterning a thin film of indium tin oxide (ITO) that has been deposited on a polyester film. ITO is a transparent, electrically conductive substance made from a mixture of indium oxide and tin oxide that is commonly used in touch panels, liquid-crystal and plasma display devices, gas sensors, and solar photovoltaic panels. In a typical application, the ITO film must be patterned to form electrodes, current collectors, and the like. Heretofore it has been common practice to pattern an ITO film by means of either a laser ablation process or a photolithography/etching process. The laser ablation process includes the use of expensive equipment to precisely position and focus a laser. The photolithography/etching process is time-consuming.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs, TSP


Efficient G4FET-Based Logic Circuits

Fewer G4FETs than conventional transistors would be needed to implement logic functions. A total of 81 optimal logic circuits based on four-gate field-effect transistors (G4FETs) have been designed to implement all Boolean functions of up to three variables. The purpose of this development was to lend credence to the expectation that logic circuits based on G4FETs could be more efficient (in the sense that they could contain fewer transistors), relative to functionally equivalent logic circuits based on conventional transistors.

Posted in: Semiconductors & ICs, Briefs, TSP


Spatial Combining of Laser-Diode Beams for Pumping an NPRO

Multiple multimode beams are efficiently combined into one optical fiber. A free-space optical beam combiner now undergoing development makes it possible to use the outputs of multiple multimode laser diodes to pump a neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) non-planar ring oscillator (NPRO) laser while ensuring that the laser operates at only a single desired frequency. This optical beam combiner serves the same purpose as does the one described in “Diffractive Combiner of Single-Mode Pump Laser- Diode Beams” (NPO-42411), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 5 (May 2007), page 16a. Although the principles of design and operation of the present and prior beam combiners are not identical, they are so closely related that it is necessary to devote the next four paragraphs to reiteration of a substantial portion of the cited prior article in order to give meaning to a description of the present beam combiner.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP


Tunable Optical Assembly With Vibration Dampening

Flat actuators are mechanically simple and offer vibration dampening. Since their market introduction in 1995, fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs) [wherein “fiber” signifies optical fiber] have emerged as excellent means of measuring such parameters as strain and temperature. Distributed-grating sensing is particularly beneficial for such structural-health monitoring applications such as those of “smart” structures or integrated vehicle health management in aerospace vehicles. Because of the variability of their output wavelengths, tunable lasers have become widely used as means of measuring FBGs.

Posted in: Mechanics, Photonics, Mechanical Components, Briefs, TSP


Optical Displacement Sensor for Sub- Hertz Applications

A document discusses a sensor made from off-the-shelf electro-optical photodiodes and electronics that achieves 20 nm/(Hz)1/2 displacement sensitivity at 1 mHz. This innovation was created using a fiber-coupled laser diode (or Nd:YAG) through a collimator and an aperture as the illumination source. Together with a germanium quad photodiode, the above-mentioned displacement sensor sensitivities have been achieved. This system was designed to aid the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) with microthruster tests and to be a backup sensor for monitoring the relative position between a proof mass and a spacecraft for drag-free navigation. The optical displacement sensor can be used to monitor any small displacement from a remote location with minimal invasion on the system.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP


Sensing a Changing Chemical Mixture Using an Electronic Nose

ASIC may enable continuous, high-speed monitoring. A method of using an electronic nose to detect an airborne mixture of known chemical compounds and measure the temporally varying concentrations of the individual compounds is undergoing development. In a typical intended application, the method would be used to monitor the air in an inhabited space (e.g., the interior of a building) for the release of solvents, toxic fumes, and other compounds that are regarded as contaminants. At the present state of development, the method affords a capability for identifying and quantitating one or two compounds that are members of a set of some number (typically of the order of a dozen) known compounds. In principle, the method could be extended to enable monitoring of more than two compounds.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs


Optimized Geometry for Superconducting Sensing Coils

Design would minimize measurement time in magnetic resonance imaging. An optimized geometry has been proposed for superconducting sensing coils that are used in conjunction with superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magneto- encephalography (MEG), and related applications in which magnetic fields of small dipoles are detected. In designing a coil of this type, as in designing other sensing coils, one seeks to maximize the sensitivity of the detector of which the coil is a part, subject to geometric constraints arising from the proximity of other required equipment. In MRI or MEG, the main benefit of maximizing the sensitivity would be to enable minimization of measurement time.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP


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