Tech Briefs

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.

Motion Design : Motion Control
Snake-Inspired Robot

Researchers have developed a new and improved snake-inspired soft robot that is faster and more precise than its predecessor.

Motion Design : Motion Control
Calculating the Estimated Fatigue Life of a Disc Spring

In discussing fatigue life, it is important to distinguish between disc springs and conical spring washers, as they differ by design and intended usage. Conical spring washers are...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Ultra-Low-Power Chips Enhance Performance of Small Robots

An ultra-low-power hybrid chip inspired by the brain could help give palm-sized robots the ability to collaborate and learn from their experiences. Combined with new generations of...

Briefs : Software
Model Gives Robots a Better Feel for Object Manipulation

A new learning system improves a robot’s ability to mold materials into target shapes and make predictions about interacting with solid objects and liquids. The system, known as a...

Briefs : Automotive
Gear Bearings

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center developed gear bearing technology that combines gear and bearing functions into a single unit that significantly improves gear drives for electrical, internal combustion, and turbine motors. The...

Sensor Technology : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Monitor Babies in the NICU Without Wires

An interdisciplinary Northwestern University team has developed a pair of soft, flexible wireless sensors that replace the tangle of wire-based sensors that currently monitor babies in hospitals’...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
UCI Biomedical Engineers Develop Wearable Respiration Monitor with Children’s Toy

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a wearable, disposable respiration monitor that provides high-fidelity readings on a...

Sensor Technology : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Spotting Minute Amounts of Disease in the Bloodstream

The difficulty in spotting minute amounts of disease circulating in the bloodstream has proven a stumbling block in the detection and treatment of cancers that advance stealthily with few...

Sensor Technology : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Diagnose Lithium Batteries

Batteries with metallic lithium anodes offer enhanced efficiency compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries because of their higher capacity. However, safety concerns and a short lifespan stand in the way. To...

Sensor Technology : Sensors/Data Acquisition
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...

Sensor Technology : Sensors/Data Acquisition
3D Printable Sensors Disposed of Without Contaminating the Environment

Simon Fraser University and Swiss researchers are developing an eco-friendly, 3D printable solution for producing wireless Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors that can be...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Graphene-Based Technology for Wearable Health Monitoring

Graphene Flagship partner ICFO, based in Barcelona, Spain is developing graphene-based prototypes that aim to turn mobile phones into life saving devices. The first of these will allow...

Briefs : Internet of Things
New Electromyography Biofeedback Device

Anew electromyography biofeedback device that is wearable and connects to novel smartphone games may offer people with incomplete paraplegia a more affordable, self-controllable therapy to enhance...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Cryogenic Cam Butterfly Valve

Typical butterfly valves cannot seal at both ambient and cryogenic temperatures. At cryogenic temperatures, valves grow and shrink, changing critical dimensions such as distance between the disc and seat....

Briefs : Medical
Vascular Injury Shunt

Extremity vascular injury results in bleeding and lack of blood flow beyond the site of vessel disruption (ischemia). Priorities when this occurs include hemorrhage control, management of life-threatening injuries, and restoration of flow to the extremity. While definitive vessel repair is optimal, life-threatening injuries...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
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 : Energy
Graphene Coating Takes Oxygen Out of Lithium Battery Fires

Lithium batteries allow electric vehicles to travel several hundred miles on one charge. Their capacity for energy storage is well known — so is their tendency to occasionally...

Briefs : Software
Design Software Identifies a Product's Performance Tradeoffs

Designing any product — from complex car parts to wrenches — is a balancing act with conflicting performance tradeoffs. Making something lightweight, for instance, may compromise its durability.

Briefs : Wearables
Modular Blocks Enable Plug-and-Play Diagnostic Devices

Over the past decade, many researchers have been working on small, portable diagnostic devices based on chemical reactions that occur on paper strips. Many of these tests make use of...

Briefs : Medical
Wearable Ultrasound Patch Monitors Blood Pressure

Wearable devices have been limited to sensing signals either on the surface of the skin or right beneath it. A new wearable ultrasound patch non-invasively monitors blood pressure in arteries...

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 : Energy
Double-Fed Induction Linear Alternator

This technology was developed to address the limitations of traditional, single-fed linear alternators that require permanent magnets, adhesive bonding organics, and heavy iron laminations for flux control. They experience eddy-current losses and require electromagnetic interference protection. Furthermore,...

Briefs : Energy
Wood-Based Technology Creates Electricity from Heat

Researchers have transformed a piece of wood into a flexible membrane that generates energy from the same type of electric current (ions) on which the human body runs. This energy is generated using charged channel walls and other unique properties of the wood’s natural nanostructures. With...

Briefs : Energy
Battery Electrolyte Doubles Driving Range for Electric Vehicles

Conventional electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries that power household electronics like computers and cellphones are not suitable for lithium-metal batteries. Lithium-metal batteries that replace a graphite electrode with a lithium electrode are the holy grail of energy...

Briefs : Energy
Generating Electrical Power from Waste Heat

Directly converting electrical power to heat is easy; however, converting heat into electrical power is not as easy. To address this issue, a tiny silicon-based device was developed that can...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Joining Gun Bonds Metal and Plastic in Seconds

The connection of plastics and metals poses a challenge due to the different physical properties of the two materials. All conventional joining options, such as bonds using adhesives or rivets,...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Smart, Soft, Back Orthosis Uses Real-Time Motion Detection

Back pain is inevitable with constrained posture over a number of hours. Permanent damage such as premature spine wear is not uncommon in people who do not adopt proper ergonomic posture. The same applies to those who frequently lift heavy objects.

Briefs : Software
Algorithm Predicts How Electromagnetic Waves Interact with Materials at the Smallest Scales

Magnetic materials can attract or repel each other based on their polar orientation — positive and negative ends attract each other, while two positives or two negatives repel. When an electromagnetic signal like a radio wave passes through such...

Briefs : Energy
One-Pot Bioconversion of Distiller’s Grains to Advanced Biofuels

Increase in bioethanol production throughout the US has led to an increase in the process coproduct — distiller’s grains with solubles (DGS). DGS can be used to feed...

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