Tech Briefs

Self-Assembling, Reversible, Reagentless Biosensor

Applications include pathogen detection, industrial monitoring, chemical detection, and healthcare and drug discovery.

Recognition-based biosensors capable of specifically detecting chemicals, toxins, and bio-agents in their environment are of increasing importance. An important goal in biosensor evolution is production of nanoscale assemblies capable of continuously monitoring concentrations of target species in a simple, reliable manner. This is accomplished by designing sensor components to carry out analyte recognition and binding while simultaneously producing useful output signals via an integrated signal transduction system. Optically addressed biosensors of this type often employ fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) in signal transduction. FRET has been employed in carefully designed sensing systems for proteins, peptides, nucleic acids, and other small molecules.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Diagnosis, Biomaterials, Chemicals, Materials identification, Materials properties, Nanotechnology
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Chip-Based Power Measurement Sensor

These sensors could be deployed in bulk, both on land and in space.

Phone signals spend at least some time traveling over fiber-optic cables. To ensure that the information gets where it needs to go, and to help researchers find better ways to ferry this information around, it’s necessary to reliably measure radiation power through these fibers. In order to calibrate a radiation power meter, researchers currently have to use a bulky cryogenic system and transfer the measurements to at least one other intermediate system. Each of these transfers increases uncertainties in the measurements, and the cryogenic systems are relatively rare and expensive to use and maintain.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Measurements, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Radiation
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Space Radiation Detector with Spherical Geometry

This technology enables in-situ studies of the impact of Galactic Cosmic Radiation ions on Earth and in space.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed and patented the Compact Full-Field Ion Detector System (CFIDS), a radiation particle detection system that provides information on the kinetic energies, directions, and electric charges of subatomic particles. The integrated package consists of a spherical Cherenkov detector, a compact detector stack, and low-noise, large-area detectors based on silicon carbide. The detectors and configuration can be modified to suit specific applications. The technology is an improvement over more conventional gas ionization detectors because the higher density of the solid media provides higher sensitivity to radiation. Originally developed to measure the properties of cosmic rays in outer space, the technology could be adapted for use on Earth for radiation dosimetry aboard high-altitude aircraft and in proton radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Radiation, Spacecraft
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Low-Pressure Plasma Cleaning of Aerospace Components Using Breathing/Compressed Air

A method for precision cleaning of aerospace components is needed that does not use hazardous or environmentally harmful commodities. Historically, precision cleaning methods have utilized solvents that have contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer or had high potential for contributing to global warming. Solvent cleaning produces large waste streams, and some solvents may be phased out in the future due to the environmental concerns.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Environmental technologies, Maintenance, Repair and Service Operations, Maintenance, repair, and service operations, Gases, Parts
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Digital Beamforming Interferometry

This technology effectively divides a single antenna into two antennas.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a new radar approach that uses a single phased array antenna and a single-pass configuration to generate interferograms, known as Digital Beamforming Interferometry. A digital beamforming radar system allows the implementation of nonconventional radar techniques, known as Digital Beamforming Synthetic Aperture Radar Multimode Operation (DBSAR).

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Antennas, Radar, Waveguides, Antennas, Radar, Waveguides
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Chain Drive Dust Conveyer

This method clears cutting fines from a sampling tool without the use of fluids.

The Mars 2020 coring drill will generate a significant amount of dust and debris (known as fines) due to the volume of milled material displaced by the corer's annulus. These cuttings must be removed to ensure that the drill does not jam. The typical method involves fluids, which may not work on Mars due to the atmospheric conditions.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components, Particulate matter (PM), Drilling, Mining vehicles and equipment, Spacecraft
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Autonomous Combustion-Powered Hopping Robot

Applications include military assistance, law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland security.

Robots are conventionally made mobile by rolling on wheels; however, wheeled robots have limited ability to traverse large obstacles. Obstacles much taller than the robot's wheels can prevent passage, and obstacles with significant horizontal gaps, such as trenches, can also prevent passage. One solution is to use bigger wheels and a bigger wheelbase. Both of these require more drive power, so the entire robot must be larger. This can be prohibitive in applications with cost, size, space, or transportation constraints that limit the size of robot that can be used.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation, Robotics, Autonomous vehicles, Vehicle dynamics
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Fabrication of BSA 14-23 Superhydrophobic Sponges as Efficient Oil and Organic Liquid Absorbents

This approach is fast, simple, inexpensive, widely applicable, and scalable.

Oil spills have become an environmental problem due to the growth of offshore oil exploration, production, and transportation. There are several methods that have been used to clean up oil spills such as chemical dispersants, water skimming, and using absorbent materials. Although skimming is the most common method for cleaning large spills, this method is time-consuming, expensive, and poorly separates oil and water. Chemical dispersants can be used to break up oil slicks into droplets that can be easily dissipated in water, but the mixture of oil and dispersants can be toxic and damage marine ecosystems. Thus, the use of oil sorbents can be an effective method to ease oil collection, and sorbents have a high capacity for removing oil from a targeted site.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Environmental technologies, Water reclamation, Fabrication
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Suspended Platform Improves Efficiency in Large-Scale Manufacturing

The platform enables access to large, external surfaces with minimum footprint and maximum system rigidity.

The Flying Carpet is a platform of any shape, size, or material that is suspended by a four-point cable system. The platform can serve as a movable scaffolding and worker positioning system that enables workers to maneuver themselves, parts, and tools throughout a large work volume for tasks such as ship repair and aircraft paint removal with up to 20 times improved efficiency over hand-built scaffolding. The Flying Carpet is a cable-supported platform that uses single-axis jog-, velocity-, and force-control modes.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Maintenance, Repair and Service Operations, Maintenance, repair, and service operations, Industrial vehicles and equipment
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Combination Structural Support and Thermal Protection System

Applications include engine firewalls in general aviation aircraft, turbine engines, automobiles, or other ground vehicles; and in building construction for fire protection.

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a system that provides both structural support and protection attributes in a failsafe manner. This innovation incorporates the use of a pre-ceramic polymer (PCP) composite structure that when overheated or exposed to fire or plasma will convert to a ceramic matrix composite (CMC), retaining structural integrity and still functioning effectively. When damage causes the thermal protection system (TPS) to fail, the underlying PCP structure converts to a CMC material that has high-temperature structural properties, will not catch fire or melt, and continues to perform its structural function.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Ceramics, Composite materials, Heat resistant materials, Polymers, Reliability, Reliability
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