Tech Briefs

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A comprehensive library of technical briefs from engineering experts at NASA and major government, university, and commercial laboratories covering all aspects of innovations in electronics, software, photonics, imaging, motion control, automation, sensors, test, materials, manufacturing, mechanical, and mechatronics.

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Printed radio frequency (RF) surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensor devices are a promising technology for providing highly reconfigurable, cost-effective, and multi-parameter sensing.
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Briefs: AR/AI
The skin could help rehabilitation and enhance virtual reality by instantaneously adapting to a wearer's movements.
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Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Ornithological animals have always benefited from folding their wings during upstroke. So, a Swedish-Swiss research team has constructed a robotic wing that can flap like a bird.
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Briefs: Materials
A new thermal control coating material, developed for use as a coating or rigid tiles, reflects essentially all solar radiation in the space environment.
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Briefs: Test & Measurement
The University of Maine’s Wireless Sensor Networks laboratory has developed a novel method of using AI and machine learning to make monitoring soil moisture more energy and cost efficient.
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Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
Researchers have been exploring how to turbocharge a passive cooling technique — known as radiative or sky cooling — with sun-blocking nanomaterials that emit heat away from building rooftops.
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Briefs: Imaging
Vision sensing systems are needed to improve operations in many industrial applications, where they can be arranged to detect the presence, position, and other characteristics of objects and products.
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Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Researchers have developed a wearable ultrasound device — about the size of a postage stamp — that can assess both the structure and function of the human heart.
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Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
A team of MIT engineers is designing a kit of universal robotic parts that an astronaut could easily mix and match to rapidly configure different robot “species” to fit various lunar missions.
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Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
The new robot, developed by engineers at the University of Waterloo, uses ultraviolet (UV) light and magnetic force to move on any surface, even up walls and across ceilings.
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Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
A team of researchers has designed a new system of fluid-driven actuators that enable soft robots to achieve more complex motions. The researchers accomplished this by taking advantage of the very thing — viscosity — that had previously stymied the movement of such robots.
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Briefs: Manned Systems
Multi-Energy Electron Device to Enable Lab Testing of Spacecraft Materials
Engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing a multi-energy electron source, capable of emitting a beam of electrons, at dozens of energies simultaneously.
Briefs: Test & Measurement
An Accurate, Low-Cost Tool for Forest Measurement
Researchers have developed an algorithm, which gives an accurate measurement of tree diameter, an important measurement used by scientists to monitor forest health and levels of carbon sequestration.
Briefs: Test & Measurement

Trends in wearable technology follow those of the broader biomedical and electronics industries — devices are getting smaller, smarter, and easier to use. Specifically, wearables...

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Briefs: Materials
Engineers have developed a modeling and manufacturing technique that generates unique verification tools which simulate cracks in metals within X-ray setup part-testing geometries.
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Briefs: Materials
Researchers have created a way to make a 3D-printable nanocomposite polymeric ink that uses carbon nanotubes — known for their high tensile strength and lightness. This revolutionary ink could replace epoxies.
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Briefs: Materials
Researchers are scaling up the production of vertically aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes that could revolutionize diverse commercial products ranging from rechargeable batteries, automotive parts and sporting goods to boat hulls and water filters.
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Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping
Scientists used a 3D printer to create a high-performance metal alloy with an unusual composition that makes it stronger and lighter than state-of-the-art materials currently used in gas turbine machinery.
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Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
A research team has gained new insight by capturing real-time movies of copper nanoparticles as they convert CO2 and water into renewable fuels and chemicals: ethylene, ethanol, and propanol, among others.
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Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
Researchers have moved a step closer to finding a use for the hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste produced every year that often winds up clogging streams and rivers and polluting our oceans.
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Briefs: Automotive
MIT researchers recently explored the potential energy consumption and related carbon emissions if autonomous vehicles (AV) are widely adopted.
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Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Air pollution is a major public health problem. Now, an MIT research team is rolling out an open-source version of a low-cost, mobile pollution detector that could enable people to track air quality more widely.
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Briefs: Materials
A new sensor — so cheap and simple to produce that it can be hand-drawn with a pencil onto paper treated with sodium chloride — could clear the way for wearable, self-powered health monitors.
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Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Bioengineers have developed sensors that monitor multiple soil parameters to provide farmers with accurate, real-time, continuous data to improve soil health and productivity.
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Briefs: Photonics/Optics
Using a new fabrication method, researchers developed a single-lens telescope and captured clear images of the lunar surface — achieving greater resolution of objects and much farther imaging distance than previous metalenses.
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Briefs: Photonics/Optics
Computing using light can potentially provide lower latency and reduced power consumption, benefiting from the parallelism of optical systems.
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Briefs: Photonics/Optics
The ability to control light using a semiconductor device could allow low-power, relatively inexpensive sources like LEDs or flashlight bulbs to replace more powerful laser beams in new technologies.
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Briefs: Photonics/Optics
The future of electronics will be based instead on using laser light to control electrical signals, opening the door for the establishment of “optical transistors” and the development of ultrafast optical electronics.
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Briefs: Materials
Building 3D-Printed Materials with Liquids
A research team has been tinkering with the use of 3D printing with liquids to create spongy materials for use in myriad industries.

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