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 : Photonics/Optics
Single-Photon Detector for Potential Encryption and Sensing

Light is widely used for communications, carrying phone conversations and video signals through fiber optic cables around the world in pulses composed of many photons. Single...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Programming Light on a Chip

Microwave signals are ubiquitous in wireless communications but interact too weakly with photons. A technique was developed to fabricate high-performance optical microstructures using lithium niobate, a material...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
All-Fiber, Optically Controlled Optical Switch

An optical switch is a device where information-bearing light may be directed to one of several outputs. Prior art optical switches have mainly been integrated optical waveguide structures such as titanium-diffused (Ti) waveguides in lithium-niobate (LiNbO3) or gallium-arsenide (GaAs)...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Systems and Methods for Correcting Optical Reflectance Measurements

Optical spectroscopy can be used to determine the concentration of chemical species in samples. The amount of light absorbed by a particular chemical species is often linearly related to its concentration through Beer’s Law. For nontransparent materials such as powders,...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Infrared Light-Focusing Platform

Researchers have integrated two technologies widely used in applications such as optical communications, bio-imaging, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) systems to create a new infrared light-focusing...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Micro UV Aerosol Detector

The detection of aerosols within fluid samples can be accomplished by optical methods. Such methods are useful in detecting potentially harmful aerosols such as biological aerosols that may be present after a biological agent attack or industrial accident. It is well known that biological molecules fluoresce when...

Briefs : Materials
Self-Powered, Washable, Wearable Displays

Clothing usually is formed with textiles and has to be both wearable and washable for daily use; however, smart clothing has had a problem with its power sources and moisture permeability, which causes the devices to malfunction. To solve this problem, a textile-based, wearable display module technology...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Measurement Method for Radioactive Methane

Anew method for measuring radioactive methane is an optical one based on spectroscopy. Previously, radioactive methane has been measured with accelerator mass spectrometry involving expensive machines. Optical measuring could be a cheaper and more agile method.

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Metamaterial Mirror Reflects Sound Waves in Any Direction

Researchers have constructed a “metamirror” device capable of perfectly reflecting sound waves in any direction. The proof-of-principle demonstration is analogous to looking...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D Printer Uses Rays of Light to Shape Objects

Most 3D printers, including light-based techniques, build up 3D objects layer by layer. This leads to a “stair-step” effect along the edges. They also have difficulties creating flexible...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Method Shrinks Objects to the Nanoscale

Existing techniques for creating nano-structures are limited in what they can accomplish. Etching patterns onto a surface with light can produce 2D nano-structures but doesn’t work for 3D structures....

Briefs : Automotive
Novel Techniques Trick Object Detection Systems

New adversarial techniques developed by engineers at Southwest Research Institute can make objects “invisible” to image detection systems that use deep-learning algorithms. These techniques...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Pocket-Sized Imaging Device Improves Accuracy Of Epidural Placement

A team of bioengineers supported through a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) has...

Briefs : Medical
Detect Ultra Rare Proteins in Blood Using a Cellphone Camera

One of the frontiers of medical diagnostics is the race for more sensitive blood tests. The ability to detect extremely rare proteins could make a life-saving difference for many...

Briefs : Nanotechnology
Tiny Optical Elements Could One Day Replace Traditional Refractive Lenses

A Northwestern University research team has developed tiny optical elements from metal nanoparticles and a polymer that one day could replace traditional refractive...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Researchers Create Smartphone System to Test for Lead in Water

Researchers at the University of Houston have created an inexpensive system that can detect lead in tap water at levels commonly accepted as dangerous, using a lens made with an...

Briefs : Imaging
In-Situ Characterization and Inspection of Additive Manufacturing Deposits Using Transient Infrared Thermography

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a rapidly growing field in which solid objects can be produced layer-by-layer. This...

Briefs : Imaging
Coating Prevents Fogging on Transparent Surfaces

Anyone who skis, wears glasses, uses a camera, or drives a car is familiar with the problem: Coming into a humid environment from the cold causes eyewear, camera lenses, or windshields to...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Thin, Durable Heating Patches

Thin, durable heating patches were created using intense pulses of light to fuse tiny silver wires with polyester. Their heating performance is nearly 70 percent higher than similar patches. The inexpensive...

Briefs : Materials
Metallic Hollow Nanoparticle Fabrication

NASA Langley Research Center has developed new methods for fabricating hollow nanoparticles using dendrimer molecules. Dendrimers are used as templates to control the size, stability, and solubility...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Chip Measures Quantities with Quantum Precision

Many devices use light to probe the quantum states of atoms in a vapor confined in a small cell. Atoms can be highly sensitive to external conditions, and therefore make superb detectors....

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Measurement Technique for Continuous-Wave, Modulated, and Pulsed Monochromatic Radiation

In many applications, such as remote sensing of atmospheric trace gases, monochromatic radiation with multiple discrete wavelengths is required. To date, there no instrument or technique that measures the wavelength jitters and fluctuations in real time.

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Laser Ranging Can See 3D Objects Melting in Fires

Optical range measurements, already used in manufacturing and other fields, may help overcome practical challenges posed by structural fires, which are too hot to measure with conventional...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Using Common WiFi to Detect Weapons, Bombs, and Chemicals in Bags

Ordinary WiFi can easily detect weapons, bombs, and explosive chemicals in bags at museums, stadiums, theme parks, schools, and other public venues using a low-cost suspicious...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Quantum Radio Aids Communications and Mapping

GPS signals do not penetrate very deeply or at all in water, soil, or building walls, and therefore can’t be used by submarines or in underground activities such as surveying mines. GPS also...

Briefs : Materials
Polarization Imaging Sensor for Enhanced Scene Analysis

Along with intensity and color, polarization is a property of light that can provide useful information for scene analysis; however, the human eye and most cameras cannot detect...

Briefs : Imaging
The Teletenna — a Hybrid Telescope Antenna System

Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed a hybrid telescope antenna system — Teletenna — to deliver high-data-rate communication over great distances. Teletenna has...

Briefs : Transportation
Text Tech: Navy Vessels Use Shipboard Signal Lamps for Text Messaging

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) TechSolutions program, the Flashing Light to Text Converter (FLTC) features a camera that can be mounted atop a signal...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Nano-Optic Endoscope Sees Deep into Tissue at High Resolution

The diagnosis of diseases based in internal organs often relies on biopsy samples collected from affected regions. But collecting such samples is highly error-prone due to the...

Briefs : Imaging
Individual Quantum Dots Imaged in 3-D for the First Time

Researchers have developed an imaging technique that uses a tiny, super sharp needle to nudge a single nanoparticle into different orientations and capture 2-D images to help...

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