Tech Briefs

Fourier Transform Spectrometer System

NASA's Langley Research Center and Science Applications International Corporation have developed a method of processing data from Fourier transform spectroscopy (FTS) measurements that improves upon existing methods. This method is simpler, more accurate, faster, and less expensive than previous methods. It uses less hardware and can be used with all wavelengths.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Architecture, Spectroscopy, Data management

Large-Area, Polarization-Sensitive Bolometer for Multi-Mode Optics

This type of detector will be used by the PIXIE mission to map the microwave sky in polarization, opening a new window to the earliest moments of the universe.

Polarization-sensitive bolometer measures linear polarization of the cosmic microwave background. (Left) Prototype detector. The absorber in the central square fills a small fraction of the optical area, but is opaque to microwaves. (Center) Schematic diagram showing the absorbing wires and sensing thermistors. (Right) Photomicrograph showing absorbing wires and the crystalline silicon end bank.

Measurements of the cosmic microwave background are a powerful probe of the early universe. Part-per-million fluctuations in the intensity of background trace the initial conditions of matter and energy shortly after the Big Bang, mapping the large-scale structure of spacetime. Now, new measurements in linear polarization at sensitivities of a few parts per billion can look behind these initial conditions to test physics at energies a trillion times higher than terrestrial accelerators, and perhaps even provide a glimpse of quantum gravity in action.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Measurements, Optics, Radiation

Wireless Tamper Detection Sensor and Sensing System

The sensors can detect and locate cracks, material strain, or impact damage.

NASA's Langley Research Center researchers have developed a wireless, connection-free inductor capacitor sensor system that can be placed on or embedded in materials and structures to monitor for and detect damage. The sensors can also be used to detect package tampering and pilfering. This innovation — SansEC (Sans Electrical Connections) — makes sensors more damage resilient and more environmentally friendly to manufacture and use.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Capacitors, Sensors and actuators, Wireless communication systems, Diagnostics, Packaging

Piezoelectric Field Disturbance Sensing System and Method

This technology provides a lightweight, cost-effective solution for structural measurements.

The invention developed is a piezoelectric stimulus-response quantification-based gravimeter (PEG). The PEG takes a completely innovative approach towards utilization of the piezoelectric element — quantifying the gravitational effects on them. In this way, the piezoelectric element can: (1) generate an electric charge in response to mechanical deformation, and (2) be mechanically deformed by applying electric charges. This is known as the converse-piezoelectric effect. Piezoelectric elements can be used to precisely inject energy for exciting vibratory frequencies within the element and housing, enabling the element to be used for quantifying subsequently produced electrical output. The gravimeter is capable of measuring numerous other types of physical quantities, such as thermal, magnetic, electrical, electromotive, electromagnetic, and electro-static fields, and providing static and structural information.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Measurements, Electrical systems, Vibration, Test equipment and instrumentation

Intelligent Displacement Sensor Deployment Using MTConnect Protocol over Ethernet

The protocol interfaces to an intelligent sensor and provides data gathering using a PC application.

Quality measurements for design validation and certification requirements sometimes call for hundreds or thousands of sensors and actuators. Maintaining such a complex system is difficult, especially over an extended time period and inevitable personnel changes. Many hours are spent tracking down sensor problems related to the sensor, associated cables, mounting hardware, or some part of the data acquisition system. These are expensive, labor-intensive hours that consume valuable technical resources.

Posted in: Briefs, Sensors, Measurements, Communication protocols, Sensors and actuators, Quality assurance

BPTables DTN Bundle Filtering Framework

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standardized Bundle Protocol (BP) enables data transfer using “bundles” over a Delay/Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN). BPTables is a bundle filtering framework that enables the establishment of barriers between more and less trusted BP network domains, and complements a security framework that includes the Simplified Bundle Security Protocol (SBSP). BPTables is implemented for the Linux port of the Interplanetary Overlay Network (ION) Bundle Protocol (BP) implementation of the DTN protocol stack. BPTables blocks forwarding of bundles whose source and destination node numbers are not explicitly allowed by the filtering policy, and by default all IPN bundles will be blocked. The current implementation presents a minimal resource footprint on embedded systems. The bundle filtering policy is determined by the contents of a rule file. Rules consist of ordered pairs (A, B) where traffic is permitted to flow from node A to node B. The rule parser understands wildcards (to simplify rule construction), and is able to optimize and combine rules to speed up evaluation.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Architecture, Communication protocols, Data exchange

Hot Isostatic Pressing of 60-Nitinol

The material 60-Nitinol (60wt%Ni-40wt%Ti) has a unique combination of physical properties, including high hardness, low apparent elastic modulus, and resistance to saltwater corrosion. These properties give the material tremendous potential for use in aerospace and defense-related components such as bearings, gears, and other apparatuses. Various methods of primary processing are being explored for fabrication of high-performance components that are free of metallurgical defects that might lead to premature failure. Hot isostatic pressing (HIP) is one process under consideration. The steps in the HIP process include (a) filling a sealed canister of the appropriate dimensions with powder, (b) heating the canister under vacuum to remove volatile and gaseous contents, (c) applying heat and pressure to the evacuated and sealed canister to consolidate the contents, and (d) removing the canister.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Fabrication, Materials properties, Reliability

Logistics for Building Radiation Storm Shelters and their Operational Evaluation

Various habitat structures were tested for use in exploration activities.

Over the past three years, NASA has been studying the operational effectiveness and astronaut protection efficacy of numerous radiation protection shelters for use in space exploration activities outside of Earth's magnetosphere. The work was part of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) RadWorks Storm Shelter project. Fabricated items were integrated into mockup deep space habitat vehicle sections for operational evaluations. Two full-scale human-in-loop simulations were designed, fabricated, and implemented. The goal was to provide design and performance assessment information for consideration by mission designers who must quantify the radiation protection characteristics of their exploration trade space.

Posted in: Briefs, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Protective structures, Radiation protection, Spacecraft

Vulnerability Assessment Tool

Malawi has not been spared from the severe impacts of climate change. In the past two decades, Malawi has experienced a number of adverse climatic hazards, the most serious being dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense and unpredictable rainfall, riverine floods, and flash floods. Some of these, especially droughts and floods, have since increased in frequency, intensity, and magnitude over the past decades, and have adversely impacted food and water security, water quality, energy, and sustainable livelihoods of most rural communities. With its narrow economic base, limited agroprocessing industries, over-dependency on rain-fed agriculture, and biomass for household energy, Malawi is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. This situation is exacerbated by increasing poverty among rural communities, increasing population pressure on a limited land resource base, land degradation arising from agricultural expansion and the cultivation of marginal lands, and increasing deforestation to meet the increasing demands for energy, food, and construction purposes.

Posted in: Briefs, Green Design & Manufacturing, Statistical analysis, Weather and climate, Developing countries, Risk assessments

MRAM Alternative Uses Less Energy than Conventional Chip

Purely electrical memory chips commonly used today are volatile and their state must be continuously refreshed, which requires a lot of energy. An alternative to these electrical memory chips is magnetic random access memory (MRAM), which saves data magnetically and does not require constant refreshing. They do, however, require relatively large electrical currents to write the data to memory, which reduces reliability.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Computer software and hardware, Integrated circuits, Energy consumption

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