Curved Piezoelectric Actuators for Stretching Optical Fibers

Curved actuators produce greater displacements than do flat actuators.

Assemblies containing curved piezoceramic fiber composite actuators have been invented as means of stretching optical fibers by amounts that depend on applied drive voltages. Piezoceramic fiber composite actuators are conventionally manufactured as sheets or ribbons that are flat and flexible, but can be made curved to obtain load-carrying ability and displacement greater than those obtainable from the flat versions. A curved actuator of this type can be fabricated by bonding a conventional flexible flat actuator to a thin metal backing sheet in a flat configuration at an elevated temperature so that upon cooling to room temperature, differential thermal contraction of the layers causes the laminate to become curved. Alternatively, such a curved actuator can be fabricated by bonding the layers together at room temperature using a curved mold.

Posted in: Briefs, ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Fabrication, Ceramics

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: Briefs, ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Lasers, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Optics, Lasers, On-board diagnostics, On-board diagnostics (OBD), Optics, Vibration, Vibration

Cylindrical Piezoelectric Fiber Composite Actuators

Cylindrical actuators offer advantages over flat flexible actuators.

The use of piezoelectric devices has become widespread since Pierre and Jacques Curie discovered the piezoelectric effect in 1880. Examples of current applications of piezoelectric devices include ultrasonic transducers, micro-positioning devices, buzzers, strain sensors, and clocks. The invention of such lightweight, relatively inexpensive piezo-ceramic-fiber-composite actuators as macro fiber composite (MFC) actuators has made it possible to obtain strains and displacements greater than those that could be generated by prior actuators based on monolithic piezoceramic sheet materials. MFC actuators are flat, flexible actuators designed for bonding to structures to apply or detect strains. Bonding multiple layers of MFC actuators together could increase force capability, but not strain or displacement capability.

Posted in: Briefs, ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Fiber optics, Sensors and actuators, Ceramics

Micron-Accurate Laser Fresnel-Diffraction Ranging System

This system would exploit the variation of Fresnel diffraction with distance.

The figure schematically depicts two versions of an opto-electronic system, undergoing development at the time of reporting the information for this article, that is expected to be capable of measuring a distance between 2 and 10 m with an error of no more than 1 μm. The system would be designed to exploit Fresnel diffraction of a laser beam. In particular, it would be designed to take advantage of the fact that a Fresnel diffraction pattern is ultrasensitive to distance.

Posted in: Briefs, ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Measurements, Lasers, Lasers, Product development

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: Briefs, ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Architecture, Lasers, Waveguides, Architecture, Lasers, Waveguides

Polarization/Spatial Combining of Laser-Diode Pump Beams

Four beams are combined into two, which are then combined into one.

The figure depicts a breadboard version of an optical beam combiner that makes it possible to use the outputs of any or all of four multimode laser diodes to pump a non-planar ring oscillator (NPRO) laser. This apparatus could be an alternative to the one described in the immediately preceding article. Whereas that one utilizes spatial (beam-shaping) beam-combining techniques, this one utilizes a combination of polarization and spatial beam-combining techniques. In both that case and this one, the combined multiple laser-diode pump beams are coupled into an optical fiber for delivery to the NPRO pump optics.

Posted in: Briefs, ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Fiber optics, Lasers, Fiber optics, Lasers

Web-Enabled Optoelectronic Particle-Fallout Monitor

A user can interrogate this instrument from a remote location.

A Web-enabled optoelectronic particle-fallout monitor has been developed as a prototype of future such instruments that (l) would be installed in multiple locations for which assurance of cleanliness is required and (2) could be interrogated and controlled in nearly real time by multiple remote users. Like prior particle-fallout monitors, this instrument provides a measure of particles that accumulate on a surface as an indication of the quantity of airborne particulate contaminants. The design of this instrument reflects requirements to:

Posted in: Briefs, ptb catchall, Tech Briefs, Photonics, Sensors and actuators, Sensors and actuators, Particulate matter (PM), Hazardous materials

Mosaic-Detector-Based Fluorescence Spectral Imager

This portable instrument would perform comparably to larger laboratory instruments.

A battery-powered, pen-sized, portable instrument for measuring molecular fluorescence spectra of chemical and biological samples in the field has been proposed. Molecular fluorescence spectroscopy is among the techniques used most frequently in laboratories to analyze compositions of chemical and biological samples. Heretofore, it has been possible to measure fluorescence spectra of molecular species at relative concentrations as low as parts per billion (ppb), with a few nm spectral resolution. The proposed instrument would include a planar array (mosaic) of detectors, onto which a fluorescence spectrum would be spatially mapped. Unlike in the larger laboratory-type molecular fluorescence spectrometers, mapping of wavelengths to spatial positions would be accomplished without use of relatively bulky optical parts. The proposed instrument is expected to be sensitive enough to enable measurement of spectra of chemical species at relative concentrations

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Imaging, Photonics, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Test equipment and instrumentation

Design and Fabrication of High-Efficiency CMOS/CCD Imagers

Economical production of back-illuminated CMOS/CCD imagers should soon become possible.

An architecture for back-illuminated complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) and charge-coupled-device (CCD) ultraviolet/visible/near infrared-light image sensors, and a method of fabrication to implement the architecture, are undergoing development. The architecture and method are expected to enable realization of the full potential of back-illuminated CMOS/CCD imagers to perform with high efficiency, high sensitivity, excellent angular response, and in-pixel signal processing. The architecture and method are compatible with next-generation CMOS dielectric-forming and metallization techniques, and the process flow of the method is compatible with process flows typical of the manufacture of very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuits.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Imaging, Photonics, Design processes, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Fabrication

Improved Underwater Excitation-Emission Matrix Fluorometer

This is a higher-resolution, smaller, more-capable successor to a prior instrument.

A compact, high-resolution, two-dimensional excitation-emission matrix fluorometer (EEMF) has been designed and built specifically for use in identifying and measuring the concentrations of organic compounds, including polluting hydrocarbons, in natural underwater settings. Heretofore, most EEMFs have been designed and built for installation in laboratories, where they are used to analyze the contents of samples collected in the field and brought to the laboratories. Because the present EEMF can be operated in the field, it is better suited to measurement of spatially and temporally varying concentrations of substances of interest.

Posted in: Briefs, Imaging, Photonics, Test equipment and instrumentation

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