Photonics/​Optics

Access our comprehensive library of technical briefs on photonics and optics, from engineering experts at NASA and major government, university, and commercial laboratories.

Briefs : Materials
Invisible Tags Write, Read, and Erase Using Light
Invisible Tags Write, Read, and Erase Using Light

A method was developed that enables information to be contained in simple plastic foils with a thickness of less than 50 μm, which is thinner than a human hair. Organic luminescent molecules...

Invisible Tags Write, Read, and Erase Using Light
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Dynamic Microstructures Move by Light and Temperature
Dynamic Microstructures Move by Light and Temperature

3D printing via direct laser writing involves a computer-controlled focused laser beam that acts as a pen and creates the desired structure in the printer ink — a photoresist. In this...

Dynamic Microstructures Move by Light and Temperature
Briefs : Materials
Simultaneous Imaging and Friction Measurement with an In-Situ Tribometer
Simultaneous Imaging and Friction Measurement with an In-Situ Tribometer

Different instruments are needed to study the interaction of contact surfaces at different length scales. Tribometers measure the coefficient of friction but they...

Simultaneous Imaging and Friction Measurement with an In-Situ Tribometer
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Measuring Stickiness of Microscale Surfaces
Measuring Stickiness of Microscale Surfaces

At the scale of bridges or buildings, the most important force that engineered structures need to deal with is gravity. But at the scale of microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) — devices like...

Measuring Stickiness of Microscale Surfaces
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Antenna Near-Field Probe Station Scanner

Antenna characterization techniques are often expensive and time-consuming. NASA’s Glenn Research Center developed a highly versatile and automated system to perform characterization of single or multiple small circuit antennas, printed on-wafer or on other substrates, by measuring the antenna’s...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Precise Temperature Measurements with Invisible Light
Precise Temperature Measurements with Invisible Light

A portable, stable, standards-quality radiation thermometer was invented that can measure temperatures between -50 °C (-58 °F) to 150 °C (302 °F). The corresponding infrared...

Precise Temperature Measurements with Invisible Light
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Mobile, Dual-Comb Device for Methane Leak Detection
Mobile, Dual-Comb Device for Methane Leak Detection

Accurately detecting, locating, and quantifying leaks of methane — the main component of natural gas and a major fuel source worldwide — is critically important for both environmental...

Mobile, Dual-Comb Device for Methane Leak Detection
Briefs : Energy
Material for Faster Computer Memory

Scientists are studying bismuth ferrite (BFO) material that has the potential to store information much more efficiently than is currently possible. BFO could also be used in sensors, transducers, and other electronics.

Briefs : Propulsion
Microrobots Activated by Laser Pulses for Treating Tumors
Microrobots Activated by Laser Pulses for Treating Tumors

Microrobots that can deliver drugs to specific spots inside the body while being monitored and controlled from outside the body have been developed that also can treat tumors in the...

Microrobots Activated by Laser Pulses for Treating Tumors
Briefs : Test & Measurement
Laser-Pointing System Transmits Data from Tiny Satellites
Laser-Pointing System Transmits Data from Tiny Satellites

Since 1998, almost 2,000 shoebox-sized satellites known as CubeSats have been launched into space. Due to their small frame and the fact that they can be made from off-the-shelf...

Laser-Pointing System Transmits Data from Tiny Satellites
Briefs : Test & Measurement
Optical Distance Measurement at Record-High Speed
Optical Distance Measurement at Record-High Speed

Scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and École Poly-technique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have reported that they achieved the fastest distance measurement attained so...

Optical Distance Measurement at Record-High Speed
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Calibration Method Improves Scientific Research Performed with Smartphone Cameras
Calibration Method Improves Scientific Research Performed with Smartphone Cameras

Although smartphones and other consumer cameras are increasingly used for scientific applications, it's difficult to compare and combine data from different...

Calibration Method Improves Scientific Research Performed with Smartphone Cameras
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Spotting Objects Amid Clutter
Spotting Objects Amid Clutter

A new MIT-developed technique enables robots to quickly identify objects hidden in a three-dimensional cloud of data, reminiscent of how some people can make sense of a densely patterned “Magic Eye” image if...

Spotting Objects Amid Clutter
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
New Imaging Method Aids in Water Decontamination
New Imaging Method Aids in Water Decontamination

A breakthrough imaging technique developed by Cornell researchers shows promise in decontaminating water by yielding surprising and important information about catalyst particles that can't be...

New Imaging Method Aids in Water Decontamination
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Robot “Eye” Provides 360° Field of View
Robot “Eye” Provides 360° Field of View

The production of precision products depends on robot control systems knowing the location of the adhesive bonding head or welding head to the nearest millimeter at all times. This means the robot...

Robot “Eye” Provides 360° Field of View
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Organic Carbon-Nitride Semiconductor
Organic Carbon-Nitride Semiconductor

Some organic materials cannot be utilized similarly to silicon semiconductors in optoelectronics. Whether in solar cells, light-emitting diodes, or in transistors, what is important is the bandgap, i.e....

Organic Carbon-Nitride Semiconductor
Briefs : Imaging
Full-Color Holograms Can Be Viewed With Low Light
Full-Color Holograms Can Be Viewed With Low Light

Researchers have created inexpensive, full-color, 2D and 3D holograms that are more realistic and brighter, and can be viewed at wider angles than current holograms.

Full-Color Holograms Can Be Viewed With Low Light
Briefs : Energy
Combustion Gas Heat Exchanger
Combustion Gas Heat Exchanger

Two very challenging problems facing the U.S. and the world are energy security and global climate change, largely due to dependence on fossil fuels. Cost-effective technologies have been developed that are...

Combustion Gas Heat Exchanger
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
System Provides “Electric Eyesight” for Autonomous Vehicles
System Provides “Electric Eyesight” for Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles relying on light-based image sensors often struggle to see through blinding conditions such as fog. Sub-terahertz wavelengths, which are between microwave...

System Provides “Electric Eyesight” for Autonomous Vehicles
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Method Uses Ultraviolet Light to Control Fluid Flow and Organize Particles
Method Uses Ultraviolet Light to Control Fluid Flow and Organize Particles

A new method uses ultraviolet light to control the flow of fluids by encouraging particles — from plastic microbeads, to bacterial spores, to pollutants — to...

Method Uses Ultraviolet Light to Control Fluid Flow and Organize Particles
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Light-Activated Micro-Pump
Light-Activated Micro-Pump

Even the smallest mechanical pumps have limitations, from the micro-fabrication techniques required to make them to the fact that there are limits on their size. A laser-driven photoacoustic microfluidic pump was...

Light-Activated Micro-Pump
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Controlling Thermal Conductivity of Polymers with Light
Controlling Thermal Conductivity of Polymers with Light

Polymers are regularly used as thermal insulators and can even be used as thermal conductors to enable efficient heating or cooling. A new type of polymer was created that demonstrates...

Controlling Thermal Conductivity of Polymers with Light
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Visualizing Motion of Water Molecules for Liquid-Based Electronics

A high-resolution inelastic x-ray scattering technique was used to measure the strong bond involving a hydrogen atom sandwiched between two oxygen atoms. This hydrogen bond is a quantum-mechanical phenomenon responsible for various properties of water, including viscosity, that...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Double-Sided Si(Ge)/Sapphire/III-Nitride Hybrid Structures
Double-Sided Si(Ge)/Sapphire/III-Nitride Hybrid Structures

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a double-sided Si(Ge)/ Sapphire/III-Nitride hybrid structure. This technology uses both sides of a sapphire wafer to build device...

Double-Sided Si(Ge)/Sapphire/III-Nitride Hybrid Structures
Briefs : RF & Microwave Electronics
More Sensitive Measurement of Semiconductor Material Quality
More Sensitive Measurement of Semiconductor Material Quality

Accurately measuring semiconductor properties of materials in small volumes helps engineers determine the range of applications for which these materials may be suitable in the...

More Sensitive Measurement of Semiconductor Material Quality
Briefs : Imaging
Face-Tracking Robot
Face-Tracking Robot

A robot is being developed that tracks facial movements to perform human tasks. The robot resembles large, squiggly arms holding tiny cameras. Sitting in a rolling office chair across from one of the arms, the robot's...

Face-Tracking Robot
Briefs : Internet of Things
Breakthrough Could Enable Infrared Cameras for Electronics, Self-Driving Cars
Breakthrough Could Enable Infrared Cameras for Electronics, Self-Driving Cars

There's an entire world our eyes miss, hidden in the ranges of light wavelengths that human eyes can't see. But infrared cameras can pick up this light emitted as...

Breakthrough Could Enable Infrared Cameras for Electronics, Self-Driving Cars
Briefs : Test & Measurement
Integrated Silicon Photonic Switch Demonstrates Lowest Signal Loss Ever in High-Speed Data Transmission
Integrated Silicon Photonic Switch Demonstrates Lowest Signal Loss Ever in High-Speed Data Transmission

Experimental photonic switches developed at UC Berkeley have shown promise toward the goal of fully optical, high-capacity switching for...

Integrated Silicon Photonic Switch Demonstrates Lowest Signal Loss Ever in High-Speed Data Transmission
Briefs : Data Acquisition
Bringing Human-Like Reasoning to Driverless Car Navigation
Bringing Human-Like Reasoning to Driverless Car Navigation

With the aim of bringing more human-like reasoning to autonomous vehicles, MIT researchers have created a system that uses only simple maps and visual data to enable driverless cars...

Bringing Human-Like Reasoning to Driverless Car Navigation
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Revolutionary Camera Allows Scientists to Predict Evolution of Ancient Stars
Revolutionary Camera Allows Scientists to Predict Evolution of Ancient Stars

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have been working with HiPERCAM, a high-speed, multicolor camera, which is capable of taking more than 1,000 images per...

Revolutionary Camera Allows Scientists to Predict Evolution of Ancient Stars