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.

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Modular Cross-Platform System Gives High-Speed Pilots Better Visual Aids

The ability to fly at supersonic speed without producing unsettling sonic booms would re-open a path to faster commercial aviation. In pursuit of aerodynamics that...

Briefs : Materials
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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Materials Move in Response to Light

In biology, there are many examples where light induces movement or change — think of flowers and leaves turning toward sunlight. Magnetic elastomeric composites were developed that move in different...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Computed Tomography Inspection Applications in Additive Manufacturing

The ability of additive manufacturing to manage small volumes, create complex designs, and fabricate lightweight but strong structures makes it a natural fit for aerospace...

Briefs : Medical
Microchip Tracks Smart Pills

Researchers have developed a prototype miniature medical device that could ultimately be used in smart pills to diagnose and treat diseases. A key to the new technology is that its location can be precisely...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Optically Transparent Polyimide Aerogels

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have expanded their growing portfolio of aerogels to include a new optically transparent polyimide aerogel. Aerogels — low-density, highly porous,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Large-Volume Extruder for 3D Printers

A low-cost 3D bioprinter was built by modifying a standard desktop 3D printer with a syringe-based, large volume extruder (LVE). The extruder works with most open-source fused deposition modeling (FDM)...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D Printer Creates Complex Biological Tissues

A technique was developed that uses a specially adapted 3D printer to build therapeutic biomaterials from multiple materials. The advance could be a step toward on-demand printing of complex...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Composite Material Cools Itself Down Under Extreme Temperatures

A material, inspired by nature, can regulate its own temperature and could be used to treat burns and help space capsules withstand atmospheric forces. The research used a network of multiple microchannels with active flowing fluids (fluidics) as a method and proof-of-concept to...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Exhaust Plume Analyzer

Exhaust plumes emanating from smoke stacks at power plants or other industrial facilities can have adverse impacts on local aviation during periods of calm winds. Adverse impacts can be exacerbated if the temperature is low or the atmosphere is unstable. While low oxygen concentrations and elevated temperatures inside the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Control of the Diameter and Chiral Angle Distributions During Production of Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes

Pulsed laser vaporization (PLV) production of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) on traditional Co/Ni catalyst was explored with...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
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
Rapid Nucleic Acid Isolation Method and Fluid Handling Devices

Gene expression analysis measures the activity of genes and reveals valuable information about the internal states of living cells. NASA Ames has developed a novel system for...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
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 : Materials
New Material Composition Withstands Extreme Impact and Temperature

A super-strong alloy of copper and tantalum was created that can withstand extreme impact and temperature, providing high strength and good electrical conductivity. The alloy is a model system with structure that can be passed on to other alternative material systems. Materials...

Briefs : Materials
Shape-Shifting Material Morphs Using Heat and Light

A controllable material was developed that can transform into complex, pre-programmed shapes via light and temperature stimuli, allowing it to morph into a different shape before fully...

Briefs : Aerospace
Device for Providing Real-Time Rotorcraft Noise Abatement Information

Rotorcraft typically operate near the ground throughout the duration of the operation. For this reason, military rotorcraft are vulnerable to acoustic detection, and public acceptance of civil rotorcraft is limited by annoyance caused by rotor noise radiation. The purpose of...

Briefs : Materials
Contaminant-Free Steel

For many highly stressed engineering applications like bearings and gears, contaminated steel parts can lead to devastating outcomes such as an emergency shutdown or the end of a mission. Ensuring that these critical...

Briefs : Imaging
Computer Detects and Understands Body Language

Detecting the nuances of nonverbal communication between individuals will allow robots to serve in social spaces, enabling them to perceive what people around them are doing, what moods they are...

Briefs : Aerospace
Gateway Integrates Wireless Sensors with Existing Aircraft Systems

In traditional hardwired avionics systems, sensor integration requires installation of literally tons of physical cable that significantly increases vehicle weight and the...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Compact Device for Detecting Rheumatoid Arthritis

A device that shows the difference between healthy fingers and arthritic fingers has been developed that combines ultrasound and photoacoustics medical imaging techniques. Combining these...

Briefs : Medical
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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Spanwise Adaptive Wing

NASA's Glenn Research Center developed a novel means of articulating the outboard portion of an aircraft wing to create the optimal geometry for given flight conditions. The Spanwise Adaptive Wing (SAW) concept employs...

Briefs : Medical
Soft Robotic “Sleeve” Fits Around the Heart to Help it Beat

Researchers have developed a customizable soft robot that fits around a heart and helps it beat, potentially opening new treatment options for people suffering from heart...

Briefs : Energy
Ancient Pigment Can Boost Energy Efficiency

Egyptian blue, derived from calcium copper silicate, was routinely used on ancient depictions of gods and royalty. Previous studies have shown that when Egyptian blue absorbs visible light, it then...

Briefs : Aerospace
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 : Medical
Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures

Soft, 3D-printed structures have been created whose movements can be controlled with a wave of a magnet, much like marionettes without the strings. The structures that can be magnetically manipulated...

Briefs : Aerospace
Modular, Multi-Mode-Propulsion, Unmanned Aerial Concept

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed an unmanned aerial vehicle concept for long-range, distributed aerial presence and delivery applications. This aircraft concept is capable...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Pilot-Assisted Check Valve for Low-Pressure Applications

Check valves are traditionally designed as a simple poppet/spring system where the spring is designed to equal the force created from the sealing area of the valve seat multiplied by...

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