PTC Heater Brings Greater Control for Hand-held Medical Devices and Disposables

Point of Care diagnostics devices, whether handheld or single-use, often require a brief application of tightly controlled heat. The disposable nature of these devices requires a low-cost component capable of delivering that heat reliably and safely. Heatron's new PTC heater solution uses a polymer-based heater technology that controls heat to within ±2°C of the target temperature, and reduces unit cost by eliminating sensors and applied controls.

Posted in: White Papers, Briefs, TSP, Electronics & Computers, Thermoelectrics, Medical, Medical equipment and supplies, Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), Polymers

High-Voltage Supercapacitors for Improved Energy Density Hybrid Power Sources

Both the aerospace and automotive industries depend increasingly on electrochemical energy storage. Reduction in mass, increase in energy, and increase in power can benefit both of these areas dramatically. Supercapacitors are currently under consideration for use in both hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and electric vehicles (EV) to improve delivery of power (due to their high rate capability), improve the life of the lithium-ion batteries (due to their ability to buffer the detrimental effects of high current pulses or alternating currents on the battery), and implement more efficient capture of regenerative breaking energy (due to their excellent charge acceptance at high rates).

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Energy storage systems, Lithium-ion batteries, Ultracapacitors and supercapacitors, Electric vehicles, Hybrid electric vehicles

Fuel Cell Power Management

This technique produces multiple voltages simultaneously from a single fuel cell stack, without the need for converters.

An innovation from NASA Glenn Research Center increases the efficiency and versatility of fuel cell stacks for power generation. To meet the requirements of a fuel cell system, engineers have typically added direct-current-to-direct-current (DC-to-DC) converters that reduce the voltage produced at the ends of the fuel cell stack. This smaller voltage is then used to operate the valves, pumps, heaters, and electronics that make up the fuel cell system. However, adding DC-to-DC converters increases cost, reduces efficiency, adds to the system part count (which reduces reliability), and increases both the mass and volume of the fuel cell system. NASA's innovative technique features multiple power points that connect different numbers of cells in an electrical series, allowing the fuel cell stack to produce electrical power at multiple DC voltages simultaneously. This capability eliminates DC-to-DC converter electronics, thereby reducing cost and simplifying the system.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Voltage regulators, Electric power, Fuel cells

Solid-State Lithium Sulfur Battery

Applications include electric vehicles, consumer electronics, UAVs, and wind and solar energy storage.

Sulfur is a promising cathode for lithium batteries due to its high theoretical specific capacity (1673 mAh/g), low cost, and environmental friendliness. With a high specific energy density of 2500 Wh/kg, which is a five times greater energy density than a conventional Li-ion battery, Li-S batteries hold great potential for next-generation high-energy storage systems. However, wide-scale commercial use has been limited because some key challenges, such as the dissolution of the intermediate discharge product (Li2Sx, 2<X<8) in conventional liquid electrolytes, remain unsolved. On the other hand, all-solid-state batteries (SSBs) are considered to be the ultimate power supply for pure electric vehicles (EVs). SSB systems demonstrate a new approach for novel Li-S batteries. Replacing the organic electrolyte with solid-state electrolytes (SSEs) will intrinsically eliminate the dissolution of polysulfide. However, all of the solidstate Li-S batteries incorporating current state-of-the-art SSEs suffer from high interfacial impedance due to their low surface area.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Battery cell chemistry, Lithium-ion batteries, Electrolytes, Electric vehicles

Standardized Heating Method to Trigger and Prevent Thermal Runaway Propagation in Lithium-Ion Batteries

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, methods are required to prevent cell-to-cell thermal runaway propagation. The goal of this work was to achieve a common method for triggering a single cell in a Li-ion battery module into thermal runaway, determine if one can consistently obtain this thermal runaway event, and design mitigation measures to address propagation of the thermal runaway to other cells in the module.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy, Battery cell chemistry, Lithium-ion batteries, Fire prevention, Risk assessments

2016 Create the Future Design Contest

The 2016 Create the Future Design Contest — sponsored by COMSOL, Mouser Electronics, and Tech Briefs Media Group (publishers of NASA Tech Briefs) — recognized innovation in product design in seven categories: Aerospace & Defense, Automotive/Transportation, Consumer Products, Electronics, Machinery/Automation/ Robotics, Med ical, and Sustainable Technologies. In this special section, you’ll meet the Grand Prize Winner, as well as the winners and Honorable Mentions in all seven categories, chosen from over 1,100 new product ideas submitted from a record 71 countries. To view all of the entries online, visit

Posted in: Articles, Aerospace, Automotive, Defense, Electronics, Alternative Fuels, Energy, Renewable Energy, Green Design & Manufacturing, Medical, Patient Monitoring, Automation, Robotics, Design processes, Collaboration and partnering

2016 Create the Future Design Contest: Grand Prize Winner


Thomas Healy, RF Culbertson, AJ Emanuele, Morgan Culbertson, Wilson Sa, Pam Culbertson, Chad Saylor, Len Kulbacki, Eric Weber, Adam Faris, Kim Kasee, Roger Richter, Jared King, Phil Aufdencamp, and Tim Gehring

Hyliion, Pittsburgh, PA

"The Hyliion team is honored to be the Grand Prize winner of the prestigious Create the Future Contest. It is a tremendous validation of the impact the Hyliion Intelligent Electric Drive Axle System will have on the trucking industry, and the environment."

Hyliion is bringing hybrid efficiency to the trucking industry by replacing a semi-trailer’s passive axle with the Intelligent Electric Drive Axle System. The system can decrease fuel consumption and reduce emissions by capturing wasted energy and storing it in a battery pack to help propel the trailer when needed. Currently, tractor-trailers get 6.5 miles per gallon, and on average use $48,000 of fuel annually (per tractor). The trucking industry in the U.S. spends $150B per year on fuel; 6.2% of all emissions in the U.S. comes from trucks.

Posted in: Articles, Automotive, Alternative Fuels, Energy, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Green Design & Manufacturing, Heavy trucks, Hybrid electric vehicles, Trailers

2016 Create the Future Design Contest: Sustainable Technologies Category Winner


“Desolenator is extremely proud and thankful to all those who voted for us. We believe that the global water crisis is a serious issue, and winning recognition from a leading publication offers great support to our efforts. We will surely return to share our progress with readers over the coming years.”

William Janssen, Desolenator, London, UK

The Desolenator is a water-purification technology that decontaminates water from any source using only solar energy. The technology is a very affordable ($0.005/L) “at-source” method of water purification. It offers a combination of features and capabilities that makes it extremely well suited for household use. It is GSM-mobile enabled and is data-driven through sensors, enabling service through micro mobile payment. It is eco-friendly, has a lifespan of up to 20 years, doesn’t require filters/ membranes, doesn’t drain the main’s electricity, and doesn’t expel toxic waste into the ocean. The long-term goal is to prevent the worsening of the water crisis.

Posted in: Articles, Renewable Energy, Solar Power, Green Design & Manufacturing, Greenhouse Gases, Design processes, Sun and solar, Sustainable development, Water reclamation

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

Fully Premixed, Low-Emission, High-Pressure, Multi-Fuel Burner

Applications include use in aircraft, spacecraft, and heating and boilers for commercial and residential systems.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed a novel design for a fully premixed, high-pressure burner capable of operating on a variety of gaseous fuels and oxidizers, including hydrogen-air mixtures, with a low pressure drop. The burner provides a rapidly and uniformly mixed fuel-oxidizer mixture that is suitable for use in a fully premixed combustion regime that has the benefits of low pollutant emissions (when operated at fuel lean conditions) and freedom from harmful flashback effects, combustion instabilities, and thermal meltdown problems that are normally associated with premixed combustion systems operating at high pressures.

Posted in: Briefs, Aerospace, Aviation, Energy, Low emission vehicles (LEV) and Zero emission vehicles (ZEV), Hydrogen fuel, Gases, Combustion and combustion processes

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