Tech Briefs

Broadband Photon-Counting Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detector

The design has minimal volume of absorptive material, thus yielding a highly sensitive cryogenic detector. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland The planar Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detector (MKID) is very compact and allows a large number of detectors to be fabricated simultaneously and implemented in a focal plane of a telescope using a minimal number of wiring interfaces. In this detector, the incident power is guided through a planar transmission line and absorbed in a thin superconductor with high kinetic inductance. The amount of power absorbed per cubic volume of the detector determines the sensitivity of the detector and its ability to count number of photons. This invention is a detector design that has minimal volume of absorptive material, thus yielding a highly sensitive cryogenic detector. In addition, the design provides a very broad operating frequency range and has low crosstalk among detectors when placed in an array configuration. Using this invention, microwave power can be coupled to an absorptive volume as low as one cubic micron. Furthermore, this design minimizes the amount of trap charges in the detector thus increasing the accuracy in detecting small numbers of photons. The high quality factor of MKID is preserved at its resonance frequency in the microwave frequency band.

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Micro-LIDAR for Flow Velocimetry

Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia A miniature light detection and ranging (LIDAR) velocimetry sensor has been developed to analyze high-velocity and boundary layer flows in real-world conditions. Using Rayleigh scattering, as opposed to the more common particle scattering, the patent-pending sensors provide multiple flow parameters without the need for particle-seeded flows. The compact fiber-optic sensor design can be embedded directly in a test surface, and allows for a variety of near-surface measurement formats enabling real-time, three-component flow velocity mapping, composition, gas density, and temperature data. The versatility of the Micro-LIDAR sensor platform offers broad utility in advanced aerodynamic and fluid dynamic applications requiring boundary-layer, unseeded flow measurements.

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Low-Cost Backup RPOD System

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas Advanced Optical Systems, Inc. (AOS) developed a low-cost Rendezvous, Proximity Operations, and Docking (RPOD) system that has applications for the future NASA Orion vehicle. Docking operations between the space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) required the coordination of real-time sensor data analysis and manual measurements. AOS developed a family of algorithms that processes the centerline docking camera data for navigational information that is currently derived from multiple sensors and manual estimation.

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Free-Space, Coupled, Multi- Element Detector for Deep Space Optical Communication

The detectors have application in optical communication, trace gas and chemical detection, and defect detection in semiconductor manufacturing. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California High-data-rate deep space optical communication (DSOC) links are desired by NASA and other space agencies to support future advanced science instruments, live high-definition (HD) video feeds, telepresence, and human exploration of Mars and beyond. Optical communications can provide a 10 to 100× increase in data rates from deep space for equivalent spacecraft mass and power as compared to state-of-the-art deep space Ka-band RF communication systems. One of the key technologies for DSOC is a large-area photon-counting detector array for the ground-based receiver.

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Surface-Modified Nanoparticles Made From High-Molecular-Weight Carboxylic Acids

Starting materials include aluminum oxy hydroxides pretreated with low molecular-weight carboxylic acids. Nanoparticles Made From High-Molecular-Weight Carboxylic Acids An improved class of alumoxanes and a method of synthesizing them have been invented. Alumoxanes are aluminum oxy hydroxide particles that have been modified with compounds containing carboxylic acid groups. For typical applications in which alumoxanes are required to be compatible with polymers, it is desirable that the modifying compounds be carboxylic acids that have high molecular weights (>500 Daltons) and/or are somewhat hydrophobic (characterized by solubility <5% in boiling water). Heretofore, the hydrophobicity of such compounds has made it difficult or impossible to synthesize alumoxanes in sufficiently high yields in acceptably short reaction times, and the alumoxane products have exhibited nonuniformities, both within and between batches. The present invention overcomes these shortcomings of prior approaches to synthesis of alumoxanes.

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NASA PS400 High-Temperature Solid Lubricant Coating

The material provides low friction and wear over a wide temperature range. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio NASA has an ongoing need for high-temperature solid lubricant coatings to reduce friction and wear in turbine engines, rocket engines, and other mechanical systems. Such lubricants must be thermally and chemically stable in air, vacuum, and reducing environments like hydrogen. Traditional lubricants like oil, grease, and PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), and even more exotic solid lubricants like graphite and molybdenum disulphide, lack such capabilities. The key problem is to identify and formulate a material that possesses good mechanical properties, long-term environmental durability, and acceptable friction and wear-reducing characteristics while being practical to apply to bearings, seals, and other mechanical components.

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Triple Orthogonal Disk Polymer Discrete Space for Cryogenic Feedline Insulation

A new material provides a superior, robust insulation for cryogenic feed lines. John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio NASA vehicles using cryogenic propellants and systems need improved cryogenic storage and transfer, including insulation for cryogenic transfer/feed lines. Wrapped multi-layer insulation (WMLI) is an innovative, next-generation, high-performance multilayer insulation designed specifically for cryogenic plumbing systems. WMLI uses Quest Thermal Group’s Discrete Spacer Technology to precisely control layer spacing, layer density, and minimize system heat flux. A customized discrete spacer, the Triple Orthogonal Disk (TOD) spacer, was designed, micromolded, and tested, and provides significantly lower heat leak than current state-of-the-art MLI insulation.

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