Tech Briefs

Composite Insulated Conductor

These extreme fire-resistant insulation systems show promise for use in high-voltage, high-power systems.

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a new class of polyimide composite electrical insulation materials for wires, cable, and bus pipe. These new insulation materials have been shown to withstand a 12-hour gas flame test while maintaining structural and electrical circuit integrities. These extreme fire-resistant insulation systems show promise for use in high-voltage, high-power systems. They can improve survivability and continuity of the electrical power supply. Besides fire resistance, these materials also provide weight and space savings because of their lightweight nature and exceptionally high-performance capability. NASA developed the wire insulation for exploration and space operations; however, the technology also has applicability to other high-voltage, high-power systems for maritime, high-rise building construction, and other industries.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Solder Bond Packaging for High-Voltage Pulsed Power Devices

This invention is a superior switching component for pulsed power applications.

The huge demand for switching components exceeding silicon's (Si) current density limitation of 200 A/cm2 has pushed the enhancement of alternative semiconductor materials such as silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride, and diamond. The enhanced material properties of SiC, such as high thermal conductivity, large critical field, wide bandgap, large elastic modulus, and high saturation velocity, make it a viable candidate for pulsed power systems. Using SiC would increase both current and power densities, improve dI/dt and dV/dt capabilities, reduce recovery time, and minimize switching losses in various power electronic systems. Furthermore, a significant reduction in the volume and weight of pulsed power systems can be realized by implementing SiC SGTOs, reducing the thermal management requirements of the pulsed power system.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Omnidirectional Mobile Robot with Two Moving Parts

A spherical induction motor (SIM) eliminates the robot's mechanical drive system.

SIMbot is an updated version of the ballbot, an elegantly simple robot whose tall, thin body moves on top of a sphere slightly smaller than a bowling ball. SIMbot features a motor with just one moving part: the ball. The other active moving part of the robot is the body itself.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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Interactive Robot Control System and Method of Use

Robonaut 2 can enter hazardous areas or tackle difficult terrain without endangering its human operator.

Researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple systems and sub-components: vision systems, image-recognition systems, sensors, control algorithms, and much more. R2's nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries. One of the most promising applications for the R2 technologies is in the area of hazardous environments. R2 has the capability to work in remote locations separate from the human controller. R2 can function autonomously, or it can be controlled by direct teleoperations.

Posted in: Briefs, Automation
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Launch Trajectory Acquisition System (LTAS) Source Slaving Selector (LS3)

The LTAS Source Slaving Selector application was developed to transmit LTAS data in User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packets using the LTAS data from one of multiple incoming UDP streams. Users select the data stream via a graphical user interface (GUI), which also displays a variety of data values from the LTAS frames. Prior art that performs a similar objective includes the Selectable Internet Protocol Slaving (SIPS) system, which can perform the objective, but can also create problems when transmitting slaving LTAS data by filling some data fields with zeroes. This is especially true for the velocity data fields. In addition, SIPS' GUI does not include X' and Y' angles, which are a form of local coordinates. The SIPS software was built using an older version of the integrated development environment (IDE) and compiler.

Posted in: Briefs, Software
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Positioning Stage

Assembly of optic-electronic devices requires precision alignment of optical fibers with lasers or sensors, and then bonding. A worker looking through a microscope at the end of a fiber conventionally executes this precision alignment and bonding process.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping
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Multifunctional Platelet Composites for Tin Whisker Mitigation

Applications include consumer electronics, automotive, and electronic weapons systems.

To comply with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, pure tin is replacing lead-tin alloys in commercial electronic devices. Unfortunately, tin can grow whiskers that can lead to electrical short circuits or metal vapor arcing, both of which threaten the long-term reliability of electronic systems, and cause critical systems to fail catastrophically. A current method of whisker mitigation utilizes coatings based on glassy or rubbery unfilled polymers; such coatings are not impenetrable to tin whiskers.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Additive-Manufactured, Very Lightweight, Diamond Turned Aspheric Mirror

Industrial-grade, lightweight mirrors used in military and aeronautics have tight specifications brought on by demanding performance parameters. For example, a mirror that is used in an orbiting telescope would have to be extremely lightweight, stiff, and be configured to operate in extreme temperatures. These parameters traditionally work against each other. A material that is stiff is typically heavy, and a mirror that is lightweight and machinable may greatly distort when exposed to extreme heat or cold. Furthermore, materials that fit some of these parameters may not be easily machined to create a mirror — an art that requires high-precision tooling.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics
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Electrically Conductive, Optically Transparent Polymer/Carbon Nanotube Composites

A templated growth process provides uniform-sized carbon nanotubes.

NASA's Langley Research Center researchers have developed a novel method for making carbon nanotubes that are very uniform in size. A template is used to guide the carbon nanotube growth so that all nanotubes are uniform in size. The carbon nanotubes can be used as-grown, uniformly dispersed, and aligned within the template or isolated from the template for use as carbon nanotubes. The solution-based process uses sugar as a carbon source, does not require vacuum, and is thus simple and low-cost in nature.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Chip-Sized Terahertz Modulator for Faster Data Transmission

This modulator is suitable for THz transmitters/receivers on a single chip.

Tufts University engineers have invented a chip-sized, high-speed modulator that operates at terahertz (THz) frequencies at room temperature and at low voltages without consuming DC power. The discovery could transmit data at significantly higher speeds than currently possible.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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