Sensors & Test

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

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Microscopy Technique Works at Extreme Heat

A stainless steel alloy — alloy 709 — has potential for elevated-temperature applications such as nuclear reactor structures. It is exceptionally strong and resistant to damage when exposed to...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Device Measures Laser Power in Real Time

Lasers play roles in many manufacturing processes, from welding car parts to crafting engine components with 3D printers. To control these tasks, manufacturers must ensure that their lasers fire at...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Internal Short Circuit Testing Device to Improve Battery Designs

Batteries, such as lithium-ion, sold for consumer use in portable electronic devices and other applications such as electrical cars, occasionally fail in the field over time. These cells have typically passed a wide variety of safety tests such as those required by governmental...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Hybrid, Wide-Range Detector Amplifier

Many applications require detection of both very small and very large signals. High-gain detector amplifiers provide low noise, but are easily swamped by large signals. Logarithmic amplifiers provide a...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Ricocheting Radio Waves Monitor the Tiniest Movements

Infrared motion detectors can cover only a limited amount of space, a person has to be within the detector's line of sight to be detected, and lights can go off when a person remains...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Li-ion Cell Calorimeter

Lithium-ion batteries are an integral part of energy storage systems used in NASA's Exploration program, as well as many modern terrestrial industries. NASA Johnson wanted a better way to measure total and fractional heat response of specific types of Li-ion cells when driven into a thermal runaway condition.

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Wearable “Microbrewery” Monitors Radiation Exposure

Radiology workers are regularly exposed to low doses of radiation when they obtain patient imagery such as X-rays. While protective gear largely keeps workers within a safe range of...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Optical Gyroscope-on-a-Chip

Gyroscopes are devices that help vehicles, drones, and wearable and handheld electronic devices know their orientation in three-dimensional space. Originally, gyroscopes were sets of nested wheels, each spinning...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitters (SMARS)

Glenn's revolutionary Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitters (SMARS) device is fabricated from nickel-titanium-halfnium (NiTiHf), nickel-titanium-zirconium compositions, or a combination. These compositions contain a secondary, nanometer-sized precipitate phase that is produced through processes of...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Low-Light Night Vision Imaging and Video Capture

Conventional night vision goggles all use image intensification (I2) tube technology that multiplies ambient, visible, and near-infrared light several thousands of times, allowing a user to see and operate in very-low-light conditions. One shortcoming of I2 tube night vision devices is that they...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Sensor Combination Detects People by Smell

Trained rescue dogs are the best disaster workers — their sensitive noses help them track down people buried by earthquakes or avalanches. But dogs need breaks. A new measuring device is always...

Briefs : Energy
Ionization-Based Multidirectional Flow Sensor

One significant area of research in fuel cell technology includes systems in which a fuel cell is combined with another power generation device (a turbine, for example) to create a hybrid system that combines the advantages of the two standalone systems, resulting in a high fuel-to-electricity...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Real-Time Ion Mobility Sensor System

A real-time ion mobility sensor developed to detect contaminants and explosives is reliable, sensitive, robust, and inexpensive. The technology improves sensitivity and reduces false alarms for threat agents, and can identify chemicals with a sensitivity of five parts per billion.

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Ultralight Gloves Provide Realistic Haptic Feedback

Engineers and software developers are seeking to create technology that lets users touch, grasp, and manipulate virtual objects while feeling like they are actually touching something in...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones

A process has been developed that enables the production of a 2-mm flat camera. The lens is partitioned into 135 tiny facets, similar to the eyes of an insect. The facetVISION camera is...

Briefs : Communications
Printable Metal Tags Turn Objects into Smart, Connected Devices

Printable metal tags have been developed that could be attached to everyday objects to turn them into “smart” Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The tags are made from...

Briefs : Aerospace
Optimetric Measurements Over Coherent Free-Space Optical Communication

High-precision ranging (optimetric) instruments are highly desired for both space navigation and communications as well as gravitational-based science missions. Traditionally, these measurements are made with instruments solely dedicated to ranging (i.e. Doppler shift of a...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
New Laser for Improving Telecommunications and Computing

The first laser based on the wave physics phenomenon called bound states in the continuum (BIC) has been developed. The technology could revolutionize the development of surface...

Briefs : Materials
Wide-Area Chemical Sensor

The detection and localization of gas releases, such as methane from leaking natural gas pipelines or nitrogen oxides from failing electrical equipment, require high sensitivity to the target gas and insensitivity...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Device Detects Subatomic-Scale Motion

It is relatively easy to measure small movements of large objects, but is much more difficult when the moving parts are on the scale of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. The ability to accurately...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Portable Acousto-Optic Spectrometers

Spectrometers are widely used for applications such as chemical analysis, remote sensing, quality control, environmental monitoring, spaceborne measurements, and optical measurements. Most spectrometers...

Briefs : Aerospace
Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor

The Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor is a highly accurate sensor for motion control applications. The sensor was designed to monitor the precise movements of an optical inspection system that...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Using Sound Waves to Produce Optical Isolators

There are challenges involved when using magnetically responsive materials to achieve the one-way flow of light in a photonic chip, including the ability to place compact magnets on a chip. In...

Briefs : Imaging
Blue-Light Imaging Sees Through Fire

A blue-light imaging method was developed that can be used to obtain visual data from large test fires where high temperatures could disable or destroy conventional electrical and mechanical sensors. The...

Briefs : Energy
System Makes Opaque Materials Totally Transparent

Most naturally occurring materials have a disordered atomic structure that interferes with the propagation of both sound and electromagnetic waves. When the waves come into contact with these...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Active Pointing Monitor for a 2-Axis Optical Control System

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a pointing measurement detection and control system that monitors the real-time optical axis motions (such as tip and tilt) that affect image quality in aerial platforms. To date, there is no known real-time optical image alignment and...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Gated Chopper Integrator (GCI)

Microvolt-level signals require gains of at least a thousand. Offsets and noise in the amplifier chain will be amplified by the same amount, which can saturate the amplifier or swamp the signal so it is not resolvable. Other methods use chopping and/or autozero techniques to lower the offset and noise. The key...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Dynamic Optical Grating Device for Modulating Light

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a novel optical grating device that dynamically modulates light and is capable of controlling the spectral properties and propagation of light...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
A Biologically Inspired Method of Improving Systems and Survivability Through Self-Sacrifice

In human beings, the self-destruction behavior of human body cells is considered as an intrinsic safety mechanism of the human body. It seems that the lifetime of a cell is programmed, and that cells know when to commit suicide. This self-destruction is...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Super-Resolution Image Reconstruction (SRIR)

Many low-cost sensors (or cameras) may spatially or electronically under-sample an image. Similarly, cameras taking pictures from great distances, such as aerial photos, may not obtain detailed...