Gas Sensors Based on Coated and Doped Carbon Nanotubes

Electronic, inexpensive, low-power gas sensors are based on single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) and provide a method for gas detection by coating or doping the SWCNTs with suitable materials. Applications include detection of flammable gases for the petrochemical industry, methane detection for the mine safety industry, environmental monitoring of toxic industrial gases, and monitoring gases in a patient’s breath.

Lightweight Fiber Optic Sensors for Real-Time Strain Monitoring

A lightweight, robust fiber optic sensor system can be used to calculate a variety of critical parameters, including shape, stress, temperature, pressure, strength, and operational load. This system processes information at rates of 100 times per second, enabling real-time strain measurements to determine the shape of an aircraft’s wing, monitor the structural integrity of bridges and pipelines, or ensure precise placement of the tiniest catheters.

Compact Full-Field Ion Detector System (CFIDS)

CFIDS is a radiation particle detection system that provides information on the kinetic energies, directions, and electric charges of subatomic particles. It consists of a spherical Cherenkov detector, a compact detector stack, and low-noise, large-area detectors based on silicon carbide. The technology could be used for radiation dosimetry aboard high-altitude aircraft and in proton radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

Advanced Gas Sensors and High-Temperature Pressure Sensors

Advanced hydrogen and hydrocarbon gas sensors are capable of detecting leaks, monitoring emissions, and providing in-situ measurements of gas composition and pressure. These sensors can be used to optimize combustion and lower emissions, and are designed to withstand high-temperature environments. Applications include leak detection for hydrogen-powered vehicles, engine emissions monitoring and control, and fire detection and environmental monitoring.

High-Precision Electric Gate (HPEG) for Time-of-Flight (TOF) Ion Mass Spectrometers

This mass spectrometer studies the magnetosphere of Jupiter and Europa. The HPEG can provide a precise “start” pulse when an ion enters the TOF section of an ion mass spectrometer to provide a very high-mass resolution capability. It is small and light for spaceflight or portable mass-spectrometry applications.

Passive Smart Container

A passive smart container monitors and tracks items that are too small to tag on an individual item level. It uses RFID circuits to identify the fill level in a container, and could be converted for use in industries such as individual health care management, pharmaceutical manufacturing, distribution inventory tracking, and retail and supply chain inventory management. Users can manage and control an inventory of small items and small electronic components.

Biomarker Sensor Arrays for Microfluidics Applications

A method manufactures biomarker sensor arrays with nanoscale resolution and active regions on the order of 1 micron by applying nanolithographic direct-write techniques to the fabrication of silane chemistry sensors on a transparent substrate. The invention can be applied to formation of patterns using biological materials, chemical materials, metals, polymers, semiconductors, small molecules, organic and inorganic thin films, or any combination of these.

Active Pixel Sensor Design and Operation

An active pixel sensor performs at least as well as conventional charge coupled device (CCD) imagers without drawbacks such as susceptibility to radiation damage. This active pixel sensor, which can be fabricated using an industry-standard CMOS-compatible process and smaller-sized pixels, is an integrated imaging device that is well suited for applications such as guidance and navigation in aerospace, and robot vision.

Floating Ultrasonic System

A Floating Ultrasonic System for improved nondestructive testing is based on a momentary-touching scheme where a vibrating probe comes in contact with the structure for fractions of a second while performing measurements, giving the probe the appearance of floating across a surface. The design allows for the easy movement of the probe over surfaces being inspected without the use of a liquid couplant between the probe and the surface.

Coherence Multiplexing of Wireless Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) Sensors

This integrated, multi-sensor network quickly identifies gaseous leaks in extreme environments in ground systems, spaceflight, and space exploration by utilizing a chemical sensing film located on a piezoelectric substrate that wirelessly transmits the data collected through pairs of antennas located on the sensor. The multiplexed system is unique because it allows multiple sensors to communicate simultaneously without incurring degradation through returning signal echoes.

Magnetic Field Response Measurement Acquisition System

This measurement acquisition system uses magnetic fields to provide power to sensors and to acquire physical property measurements from them. It can make multiple measurements of different, non-related physical properties without the constraint of a limited number of data acquisition channels. The technology has been demonstrated with a leading aircraft landing gear manufacturer to wirelessly measure the fluid levels in landing gear shock struts.

Low-Frequency Portable Acoustic Measurement System

This system detects and locates atmospheric clear air turbulence using a ground-based infrasonic array to serve as an early warning system for aircraft. This system could augment existing systems such as pilot reports, airborne lidar, and airborne radar. The system has been able to detect known events such as detection of the launch of the space shuttle in Florida all the way from Virginia.

Hermetic Seal Leak Detection

This apparatus is used in nondestructive testing of hermetic seals of containers or instrumentation. It is capable of detecting both large and small leaks, and can be calibrated to characterize the relative leak rate. The technology is used in aerospace applications, food packaging, and other applications such as automotive components, semiconductors, thermostats, switches, optical devices, and harsh environment sensors.

Cryogenic and Non-Cryogenic Optical Liquid Level Instrument for Stratified Conditions

A novel process measures the liquid level in a tank. It can operate in a range of environments, including high and low temperatures and pressures. The instrument also provides far greater accuracy and faster results in cryogenic conditions than typical cryogenic liquid metering methods. It is used for cryogenic and non-cryogenic ground tank metering applications, and zero-gravity systems that include stratification or settling techniques.

Monitoring Method and Apparatus

A monitoring system includes a base station and at least one sensor unit mounted at some distance away that is in wireless, one-way communication with the base station. The sensor lies dormant until it receives a voltage trigger from a vibration-sensitive switch. When activated, the sensor takes a measurement, transmits the data to the base station, and then returns to its dormant state. The measurement taken is recorded and time stamped.

In-Situ Health Monitoring of Piezoelectric Sensors

An in-situ measurement system monitors the performance of piezoelectronic sensors, particularly accelerometers. Characteristics such as resonant frequency, response, cable status, connectivity, bonding, and linear range can be determined. Sensors can be tested in a very wide frequency range without removing them from their mounted locations, and without requiring specially constructed transducers or special wiring.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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