Tech Briefs

Automated Solvent Seaming of Large Polyimide Membranes

Success depends on precise control of all relevant process details. A solvent-based welding process enables the joining of precise, cast polyimide membranes at their edges to form larger precise membranes. The process creates a homogeneous, optical - quality seam between abutting membranes, with no overlap and with only a very localized area of figure disturbance. The seam retains 90 percent of the strength of the parent material. The process was developed for original use in the fabrication of wide - aperture membrane optics, with areal densities densities of less than 1 kg/m2, for lightweight telescopes, solar concentrators, antennas, and the like to be deployed in outer space. The process is just as well applicable to the fabrication of large precise polyimide membranes for flat or inflatable solar concentrators and antenna reflectors for terrestrial applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping

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Equipment for On-Wafer Testing From 220 to 325 GHz

On-wafer vector network analysis of semiconductors is extended to higher frequencies. A system of electronic instrumentation, constituting the equivalent of a two-port vector network analyzer, has been developed for use in on-wafer measurement of key electrical characteristics of semiconductor devices at frequencies from 220 to 325 GHz. A prior system designed according to similar principles was reported in “Equipment for On-Wafer Testing at Frequencies Up to 220 GHz” (NPO-20760), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 11 (November 2001), page 42. As one would expect, a major source of difficulty in progressing to the present higherfrequency- range system was the need for greater mechanical precision as wavelengths shorten into the millimeter range, approaching the scale of mechanical tolerances of prior systems.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Semiconductors & ICs

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PVM Enhancement for Beowulf Multiple-Processor Nodes

A recent version of the Parallel Virtual Machine (PVM) computer program has been enhanced to enable use of multiple processors in a single node of a Beowulf system (a cluster of personal computers that runs the Linux operating system). A previous version of PVM had been enhanced by addition of a software port, denoted BEOLIN, that enables the incorporation of a Beowulf system into a larger parallel processing system administered by PVM, as though the Beowulf system were a single computer in the larger system. BEOLIN spawns tasks on (that is, automatically assigns tasks to) individual nodes within the cluster. However, BEOLIN does not enable the use of multiple processors in a single node. The present enhancement adds support for a parameter in the PVM command line that enables the user to specify which Internet Protocol host address the code should use in communicating with other Beowulf nodes. This enhancement also provides for the case in which each node in a Beowulf system contains multiple processors. In this case, by making multiple references to a single node, the user can cause the software to spawn multiple tasks on the multiple processors in that node.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Semiconductors & ICs

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Programs for Testing Processor-in-Memory Computing Systems

The Multithreaded Microbenchmarks for Processor-InMemory (PIM) Compilers, Simulators, and Hardware are computer programs arranged in a series for use in testing the performances of PIM computing systems, including compilers, simulators, and hardware. The programs at the beginning of the series test basic functionality; the programs at subsequent positions in the series test increasingly complex functionality. The programs are intended to be used while designing a PIM system, and can be used to verify that compilers, simulators, and hardware work correctly. The programs can also be used to enable designers of these system components to examine tradeoffs in implementation. Finally, these programs can be run on non-PIM hardware (either singlethreaded or multithreaded) using the POSIX pthreads standard to verify that the benchmarks themselves operate correctly. (POSIX -Portable Operating System Interface for UNIX- is a set of standards that define how programs and operating systems interact with each other. pthreads is a library of pre-emptive thread routines that comply with one of the POSIX standards).

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Semiconductors & ICs

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Detection of Water Hazards for Autonomous Robotic Vehicles

Four methods of optoelectronic detection complement each other. Four methods of detection of bodies of water are under development as means to enable autonomous robotic ground vehicles to avoid water hazards when traversing off-road terrain. The methods involve processing of digitized outputs of optoelectronic sensors aboard the vehicles. It is planned to implement these methods in hardware and software that would operate in conjunction with the hardware and software for navigation and for avoidance of solid terrain obstacles and hazards.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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Few-Mode Whispering-Gallery-Mode Resonators

Simple structures function similarly to single-mode optical fibers. Whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) optical resonators of a type now under development are designed to support few welldefined waveguide modes. In the simplest case, a resonator of this type would support one equatorial family of WGMs; in a more complex case, such a resonator would be made to support two, three, or some other specified finite number of modes. Such a resonator can be made of almost any transparent material commonly used in optics. The nature of the supported modes does not depend on which material is used, and the geometrical dispersion of this resonator is much smaller than that of a typical prior WGM resonator. Moreover, in principle, many such resonators could be fabricated as integral parts of a single chip.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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Electrically Tunable Terahertz Quantum-Cascade Lasers

These devices would supplant gas lasers as far-infrared sources. Improved quantum-cascade lasers (QCLs) are being developed as electrically tunable sources of radiation in the far infrared spectral region, especially in the frequency range of 2 to 5 THz. (Heretofore, the wavelengths of QCLs have been adjusted by changing temperatures, but not by changing applied voltages or currents.) In comparison with gas lasers now used as far-infrared sources, these QCLs would have larger wavelength tuning ranges, would be less expensive, and would be an order of magnitude less massive and power-hungry. It is planned to use the improved QCLs initially as the active components of local oscillators in spaceborne heterodyne instruments for studying infrared spectral lines of molecules of scientific interest. On Earth, the QCLs could be used as far-infrared sources for medical glucose-monitoring and heart-monitoring instruments, chemical-analysis and spectral-imaging systems, and imaging instruments that exploit the ability of terahertz radiation to penetrate cloth and walls for detection of contraband weapons.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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