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 : AR/AI
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 : Manufacturing & Prototyping
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 : Semiconductors & ICs
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 : Semiconductors & ICs
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 : Photonics/Optics
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 : Aerospace
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 : Test & Measurement
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 : Electronics & Computers
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 : Photonics/Optics
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 : Sensors/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
Sensor Technology : Markets
Stretchable Interlaced-Nanowire Film for Ultraviolet Photodetectors with High Response Speed
Stretchable Interlaced-Nanowire Film for Ultraviolet Photodetectors with High Response Speed

Stretchable electronics, which can be stretched, deformed and wrapped onto nonplanar curved surfaces, have attracted much attraction due to their...

Stretchable Interlaced-Nanowire Film for Ultraviolet Photodetectors with High Response Speed
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Single-Photon Detector for Potential Encryption and Sensing
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...

Single-Photon Detector for Potential Encryption and Sensing
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Programming Light on a Chip
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...

Programming Light on a Chip
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
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 : Test & Measurement
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 : Electronics & Computers
Graphene-Silicon Devices for Optoelectronics Applications
Graphene-Silicon Devices for Optoelectronics Applications

Silicon is a naturally occurring material commonly used as a semiconductor in electronic devices; however, researchers have exhausted the potential of devices with semiconductors made...

Graphene-Silicon Devices for Optoelectronics Applications
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Infrared Light-Focusing Platform
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...

Infrared Light-Focusing Platform
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Running an LED in Reverse Could Cool Future Computers
Running an LED in Reverse Could Cool Future Computers

Researchers devised a method in which running a light emitting diode (LED) with electrodes reversed was able to cool another device nanometers away. They harnessed the chemical potential...

Running an LED in Reverse Could Cool Future Computers
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 : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Using Laser Metal Printing to Cool Computer Chips

Traditionally, electronics are cooled using a heat sink that transfers the heat generated by the electronic system into the air or a liquid coolant. For the heat sink to work, it has to be attached to the CPU or the graphics processor via a thermal interface material such as thermal paste. It...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) of Structures Using Transient and Lock-in Thermography
Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) of Structures Using Transient and Lock-in Thermography

Researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center improved their Flash Thermography capabilities by incorporating transient and lock-in thermography. By...

Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) of Structures Using Transient and Lock-in Thermography
Briefs : Energy
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 : Test & Measurement
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
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...

Metamaterial Mirror Reflects Sound Waves in Any Direction
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D Printer Uses Rays of Light to Shape Objects
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...

3D Printer Uses Rays of Light to Shape Objects
Briefs : Nanotechnology
Method Shrinks Objects to the Nanoscale
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....

Method Shrinks Objects to the Nanoscale