Electrical/Electronics

Preventing Cell-to-Cell Thermal Runaway in Lithium-Ion Battery Modules

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) cells are increasingly used in high-voltage and high-capacity modules. The Li-ion chemistry has the highest energy density of all rechargeable battery chemistries, but associated with that energy is the issue of catastrophic thermal runaway with a fire. With recent incidents in the commercial aerospace and electronics sectors, it was necessary to find methods to prevent cell-to-cell thermal runaway propagation.

Posted in: Briefs, Batteries, Energy, Scale models, Battery cell chemistry, Lithium-ion batteries, Fire prevention
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Stackable Form-Factor Peripheral Component Interconnect Device and Assembly

Applications include fault-tolerant computing systems, high-speed data acquisition, embedded servers, and intelligent transportation systems.

The invention is a design for a peripheral component interconnect (PCI) local bus controller and target in a PC/104-Plus form-factor. The design uses a flash-based field programmable gate array (FPGA) to provide immediate functionality from power-on to avoid delay after power is applied. It can be reprogrammed from connectors directly on the board, and is able to both receive and drive the clock for system and local peripherals, allowing it to function as either a PCI bus host controller or PCI target device interface. Fully compliant with the PC/104-Plus specification, the design has associated schematics and Gerber files in a vendor-ready state. The design was developed to support ongoing research in fault-tolerant computing systems.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, Communication protocols, Computer software and hardware
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Self-Healing Wire Insulation

Microcapsules release healant that repairs minor cuts, nicks, and abrasions.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is seeking commercial partners for licensing or further development of a novel high-performance, flexible, low-melt polyimide film with self-healing properties. The self-healing properties of the film are provided by embedded microcapsules containing a solvent-soluble polyimide. When cut or otherwise damaged, these capsules release their contents, which dissolve and heal the damaged area.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Wiring, Product development, Adhesives and sealants, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Insulation, Polymers
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Vibration Damping Circuit Card Assembly

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed a particle impact damper (NASA damper) that can be used in circuit card assemblies to reduce vibrations encountered during space vehicle launch. The damper, filled with high-density metallic beads, is attached to printed circuit boards (PCBs) and printed wiring assemblies (PWAs) to dissipate vibrations and improve component reliability and robustness. Testing has demonstrated an order-of-magnitude reduction in observed peak vibration response, and dramatic improvement in circuit component life span. The NASA technology provides simple and inexpensive vibration reduction for sensitive heritage or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics in applications where the vibration environment is either severe or exceeding its original design envelope. The technology can benefit heritage hardware in a wide range of applications as a retrofitted upgrade, or can be incorporated into the design of new circuit cards.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Dampers and shock absorbers, Computer software and hardware, Vibration, Launch vehicles
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Development of a Metallic Bilayer Liftoff Mask

A large variety of cryogenic detectors need to be fabricated on thin dielectric membranes in order to have high signal-to-noise attributes. Unfortunately, many of the etching processes used to define the detectors can roughen or even completely dissolve the membranes. These types of membrane damage degrade the detector performance and limit fabrication yield.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Sensors and actuators, Product development, Coatings, colorants, and finishes, Copper, Corrosion, Materials properties, Titanium
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High Field Superconducting Magnets

Applications include MRI machines, mass spectrometers, and particle accelerators.

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

A modified coil winding machine for small-diameter wire being used to enable higher packing densities for the superconducting magnets.

This superconducting magnet developed at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center comprises a superconducting wire wound in adjacent turns about a mandrel to form the superconducting magnet; a thermally conductive potting material configured to fill interstices between the adjacent turns; and a voltage limiting device disposed across each end of the superconducting wire, and is configured to prevent a voltage excursion across the superconducting wire during quench of the superconducting magnet. The thermally conductive potting material and the superconducting wire provide a path for dissipation of heat.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Wiring, Magnetic materials
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Distributed Diagnostics and Prognostics

The distributed health management architecture is comprised of a network of smart sensor devices.

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

NASA has developed a method that prevents total system failure during emergencies, allowing parts of the system to continue to function, and making overall system recovery faster. A heterogeneous set of system components monitored by a varied suite of sensors and a health monitoring framework has been developed with the power and flexibility to adapt to different diagnostic and prognostic needs. Current state-of-the-art monitoring and health management systems are mostly centralized in nature, where all the processing is reliant on a single processor. This requires information to be sent and processed in one location. With increases in the volume of sensor data as well as the need for associated processing, traditional centralized systems tend to be somewhat ungainly; in particular, when faced with multi-tasking of computationally heavy algorithms. The distributed architecture is more efficient, allows for considerable flexibility in number and location of sensors placed, scales up well, and is more robust to sensor or processor failure.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Architecture, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Diagnostics, Prognostics, Vehicle health management
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Lens-Coupled Dielectric Waveguides

Small, lightweight, low-power interconnect solution with improved reliability and reduced packaging complexity.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a low-loss dielectric waveguide that provides a simple, versatile, and flexible transmission medium. Dielectric waveguides — long, solid pieces of dielectric that confine electromagnetic waves — offer high bandwidth and low transmission loss compared to conventional metallic waveguides. Despite these advantages, practical use of these waveguides has been limited because a large fraction of signal power is lost at the state-of-the-art interconnects joining conventional metallic waveguides and dielectric waveguides. JPL’s interconnect solution uses lens coupling to reduce these losses by a factor of 10 or more, yielding a reliable, cost-effective alternative to conventional waveguides.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Waveguides
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Sampling and Control Circuit Board for an Inertial Measurement Unit

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Scientists at NASA’s Glenn Re - search Center have developed a circuit board that serves as a control and sampling interface to an inertial measurement unit (IMU). The circuit board provides sampling and communication abilities that allow the IMU to be sampled at precise intervals. The data is minimally processed onboard and returned to a separate processor for inclusion in an overall system. The circuit board allows the normal overhead associated with IMU data collection to be performed outside of the system processor, freeing up time to run intensive algorithms in parallel. This Glenn technology consists of the circuit schematic, board layout, and microcontroller firmware for the IMU sampling and control circuit board.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Measurements, Computer software and hardware, Data acquisition and handling
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Efficient Radiation Shielding Through Direct Metal Laser Sintering

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Functional and parametric degradation of microcircuits due to total ionizing dose (TID) often poses serious obstacles to deployment of critical state-of-the-art (SOTA) technologies in NASA missions. Moreover, because device dielectrics in which such degradation occurs vary from one fabrication lot to the next, these effects must be reevaluated on a lot-by-lot basis. Often, the most effective mitigation against TID degradation is the addition of radiation shielding to the electronics box. Unfortunately, shielding materials can add significant amounts of mass to a system, particularly when vulnerable parts require shielding over 4π steradians. One method for reducing mass is to apply spot shielding located only on the critical components that require it. Reduced box- and/or spacecraft-level shielding will necessitate more complex spot shielding to protect the component from the omnidirectional radiation environment.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Metal finishing, Radiation protection, Lightweighting
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