Electric Field Quantitative Measurement System and Method

This technology could be used for medical imaging, security applications, weather prediction, and nondestructive evaluation of composites and insulators.

NASA Langley Research Center’s Electric Field Imaging (EFI) system is the only noncontact method capable of quantitatively measuring the magnitude and direction of electrostatic fields in near- and far-field applications. Based on low-cost, commercially available components, the EFI system uses measurement of very-low-current, human-safe electric fields to construct a three-dimensional image of objects and people based on their dielectric properties. This platform technology, originally developed for measurement of the efficacy of electrical shielding around cables, could be optimized for a variety of applications, including medical imaging, security and detection, weather and natural disaster prediction, and nondestructive evaluation of composites and insulators. The EFI system has the potential to offer a lower-cost, portable, and safer alternative to the imaging systems currently used in these applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Measurements, Electrical systems, Imaging and visualization, Surveillance, Weather and climate, Non-destructive tests

Auto-Balancing Series-Stacked Input DC-DC Converter

This invention could enable practical, reliable, and efficient power conversion in high-voltage DC systems without power level limitation.

ADC-DC converter that can operate from a high input voltage is needed for future high-power space applications. However, the selection of space-qualified, high-voltage transistors and filter capacitors for such a converter are very limited. The available high-voltage components have lower performance than lower-voltage components. One possible solution to this problem is connecting in series the inputs of multiple converters to lower the input voltage at the individual converter inputs. However, because of component tolerances, performance degradation, and transient events, this can result in an unbalanced voltage distribution throughout the various inputs. Excessive voltage on any of the stacked converters can damage components and cause a catastrophic failure. A circuit that could inherently balance the voltage between the inputs of multiple low-voltage DCDC converters would have better performance and reliability.

Posted in: Briefs, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Capacitors, Integrated circuits, Switches, Transistors, Performance upgrades, Spacecraft

Larger-Area Integrated Electrical Metallization Dielectric Structures with Stress-Managed Unit Cells for Extreme- Environment Semiconductor Electronics Chips

Electronic circuits that operate in high temperatures are used in automobiles, airplanes, oil drilling operations, and many other applications.

The use of patterned multiple layers of thin films of metal and dielectric to form integrated circuit interconnections of transistors and/or form on-chip circuit capacitors is well known to those skilled in the art of semiconductor microelectronic fabrication. Because differing layers of thin film materials have different physical and thermal expansion properties, it is also well known that stress is inherently present in these multilayer film structures on a microelectronic chip. The amount of stress changes with temperature and as a function of lateral feature size/area across the chip. When stress anywhere within a patterned metal film feature becomes critically large (i.e., the “yield stress” is exceeded), the metal film can physically crack, buckle, or delaminate from other layers, which usually damages/fails the intended electrical operation of the microelectronic circuit.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Failure modes and effects analysis, Capacitors, Integrated circuits, Fabrication, Semiconductors

Carbon Nanofibers Synthesized on Selective Substrates for Nonvolatile Memory and 3D Electronics Applications

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a nano-electro-mechanical resonator (NEMR) based on vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (CNFs) that is suitable for applications requiring high sensitivity, broad tenability, low loss (high Q), low power consumption, and small size. Other nanoscale resonators have been demonstrated using top-down fabrication approaches, but these generally involve complicated and expensive electron beam lithography. JPL’s bottom-up fabrication approach yields robust, vertically oriented CNFs that can be used to form high-Q, high-frequency NEMRs. In addition, the resonant frequency of these NEMRs can be tuned by selecting the length and diameter of the CNFs. This allows for a highly integrated, ultra-low-power, high-data-rate, and wide-bandwidth NEMR-based transceiver architecture.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Electronic equipment, Nanomaterials

A Nanotube Film Electrode and Electroactive Device Fabricated with the Nanotube Film Electrode and Methods for Making the Same

Applications include optical devices, electromechanical energy conversion, medical devices, sonar, and transducers.

NASA’s Langley Research Center offers an all-organic electroactive device system fabricated with single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNT). The enhanced design offers higher electroactive performance in comparison with conventional electroactive device systems fabricated with metal electrodes or other conducting polymers. The new structure allows for significant improvement of the electroactive strain due to relief of the constraint on the electroactive layer. It exhibits superb actuation properties and can withstand high temperatures with improved mechanical integrity and chemical stability. In addition, the electroactive device can be made transparent, allowing for use in optical devices. NASA is seeking development partners and potential licensees.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Electronic equipment, Optics, Nanomaterials

Superconducting Transition Edge Sensors and Methods for Design and Manufacture Thereof

Superconducting Transition Edge Sensors and Methods for Design and Manufacture Thereof

NASA technologists have developed a novel, superconducting transition edge sensor (TES). Such TES devices are thermometers that are widely used for particle detection, e.g. X-rays, infrared photons, atoms, molecules, etc. Energy resolution is chiefly important in superconducting transition edge sensors to function as imaging spectrometers. For optimal energy resolution, it is necessary to control the superconducting transition temperature for the device.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Design processes, Imaging and visualization, Sensors and actuators, Fabrication

Chalcogenide Nanoionic-Based Radio Frequency Switch

The electrochemical switch is non-volatile, lacks moving parts that can fail, and is easy to fabricate.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed nanoionic-based radio frequency (RF) switches for use in devices that rely on low-power RF transmissions, such as automotive systems, RFID technology, and smartphones. These groundbreaking nanoionic switches operate at speeds of semiconductor switches, and are more reliable than microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) switches while retaining the superior RF performance and low power consumption found in MEMS, all without the need for higher electrical voltages. In this new process, metals are photo-dissolved into a chalcogenide glass and packaged with electrodes and a substrate to form a switch. Since the nanoionic-based switch is electrochemical in nature, it has certain advantages over switches that are mechanically based, including nonvolatility, lack of moving parts that can fail, ease and efficiency of activation, and ease of fabrication. This innovative device has the potential to replace MEMS and semiconductors in a wide range of switching systems, including rectifying antennas (rectennas) and other RF antenna arrays.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, RF & Microwave Electronics, Radio equipment, Switches, Radio-frequency identification, Nanotechnology

X-ray Diffraction (XRD) Characterization Methods for Sigma=3 Twin Defects in Cubic Semiconductor (100) Wafers

This technology is especially relevant in high-end, high-speed electronics.

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a method of using x-ray diffraction (XRD) to detect defects in cubic semiconductor (100) wafers. The technology allows non-destructive evaluation of wafer quality in a simple, fast, inexpensive process that can be easily incorporated into an existing fab line. The invention adds value throughout the semiconductor industry, but is especially relevant in high-end, high-speed electronics where wafer quality has a more significant effect on yields.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Semiconductors, X-ray inspections

System for Configuring Modular Telemetry Transponders

Possible applications include weather monitoring and forecasting, Earth observation, and ionospheric studies.

Figure 1. The individual slices, or decks, that comprise the PULSAR telemetry unit. The modular design enables inclusion of multiple-band frequency transmitters and receivers.

Researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have developed software-defined radio (SDR) telemetry transceiver technology to collect and transmit data to and from small satellites and microsatellites. The SDR concept uses a minimal number of traditional analog radio-frequency components to convert RF signals to a digital format. Digital signal processing replaces bulky radio-frequency components, and enables reduced cost as well as size, weight, and power requirements (SWaP). The NASA technology enables software and firmware updates that increase the lifespan and efficacy of satellites, supporting a wide variety of changing radio protocols as they are developed. A modular design enables inclusion of multiple band frequency transmitters and receivers (S-band, X-band, Ka-band, etc.). The NASA SDR can find use in satellite applications in which cost savings, upgradability, and reliability are essential. A first-generation SDR has been flight tested on NASA’s FASTSAT mission.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Computer software and hardware, Satellite communications, Satellites

Method of Forming Textured Silicon Substrate by Maskless Cryogenic Etching

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed an advanced energy-storage device to accommodate portable devices, minimize emissions from automobiles, and enable more challenging space missions. The use of silicon for the anode of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries is attractive because silicon has the highest theoretical charge capacity of any material when used as an anode in a Li-ion battery. Conventional silicon anodes undergo large-volume expansions and contractions with the absorption and desorption of Li-ions, however, and this results in pulverization of the anode after several charge and discharge cycles. JPL’s innovative Li-ion battery anodes are made of micro-textured silicon, which is able to accommodate the stress of expansion and contraction during the charging cycle. These robust silicon anodes make high-capacity, rapid-charge-rate Li-ion batteries practical.

Posted in: Briefs, Power Management, Energy, Battery cell chemistry, Energy storage systems, Lithium-ion batteries, Silicon alloys

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