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 : Data Acquisition
Keeping Data Fresh for Wireless Networks

For wireless networks that share time-sensitive information on the fly, it's not enough to transmit data quickly: that data also needs to be fresh. Consider the many sensors in your car. While it may...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
The Ultimate ‘Smell Test’: Device Sends Rotten Food Warning to Smartphones

When it comes to the “smell test,” the nose isn't always the best judge of food quality. Now in a study appearing in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, scientists...

Briefs : Medical
A Nanotech Sensor Turns Molecular Fingerprints into Bar Codes

Infrared spectroscopy is the benchmark method for detecting and analyzing organic compounds. However, that requires complicated procedures and large, expensive instruments, making...

Briefs : Software
NIST/NASA Study Shows One Detector Doesn't Fit All for Smoke in Spacecraft

What had been a peaceful and productive mission for the six men aboard the Russian space station Mir, including U.S. astronaut Jerry Linenger, nearly became a tragic...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch

Stanford and Seoul National University researchers have developed an artificial sensory nerve system that can activate the twitch reflex in...

Briefs : Imaging
Deep Learning Transforms Smartphone Microscopes into Laboratory-Grade Devices

Researchers at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering have demonstrated that deep learning, a powerful form of artificial intelligence, can discern and enhance...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
COSMIC Impact: Next-Gen X-Ray Microscopy Platform

A next-generation X-ray beamline now operating at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) brings together a unique set of capabilities to measure the...

Briefs : Imaging
A Paper-Like LCD — Thin, Flexible, Tough, and Cheap

Optoelectronic engineers in China and Hong Kong have manufactured a special type of liquid crystal display (LCD) that is paper-thin, flexible, light, and tough. With this, a daily...

Briefs : Medical
Researchers Create Precision Optical Components with Inkjet Printing

Researchers have developed an inkjet printing technique that can be used to print optical components such as waveguides. Because the printing approach can also fabricate...

Briefs : Materials
Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics

The unique capabilities of soft robots are to bend, deform, stretch, twist, or squeeze in all the ways that conventional rigid robots cannot. Today, it is easy to envision a world in...

Briefs : Motion Control
Ultra-Thin Capacitive Sensor Has the Least Possible Resistance to Motion

A thin and flexible sensor was developed for sensing sounds, since it can move with the airflow made by even the softest noises. With the least possible resistance to motion, the sensor addresses issues with accelerometers, microphones, and many other similar sensors. The...

Briefs : Motion Control
Variable-Camber Compliant Wing

In the early years of manned flight, wing warping was used for lateral control of an aircraft. This technique consisted of a system of pulleys and cables used to twist the trailing edges of the wings in...

Briefs : Motion Control
Using Direct Current with Inverter Technology in Resistance Welding

Resistance welding with direct current (DC) using inverter technology reduces costs by improving quality, reducing maintenance, and increasing productivity. Switching from...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot

Today's crop breeders are trying to boost yields while preparing plants to withstand severe weather and changing climates. To succeed, they must locate the genes for high-yielding, hardy traits in crop...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Hydraulic-Based Spherical Robot

Current spherical robots rely upon rotating mechanical weights inside the sphere to change the center of gravity of the sphere, causing the robot to roll. The use of rotating mechanical weights is not optimal due to the reliance upon moving parts, which can present burdensome maintenance issues. It would be...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Integrated Inverter for Controlling Multiple Electric Machines

There are applications that require multiple electric machine drives, such as electric or hybrid electric vehicles, where there is a main traction motor and one or more accessory...

Briefs : Energy
Water-Based Battery Stores Solar and Wind Energy

Wind and solar energy generation creates challenges, since the Sun only shines by day, and sometimes the wind doesn't blow. Another variability is surges of demand on the grid. On a hot day when air conditioning is in use, utilities must have load-balancing strategies to meet peak demand. A...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Crystal-Free Formation of Non-Oxide Optical Fiber

Researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center have devised a method for the creation of crystal-free non-oxide optical fiber preforms. Non-oxide fiber optics are extensively used in...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Power Outlet Analyzes Electrical Current Usage

Electrical interruptions, or “nuisance trips,” occur when a detector installed behind the wall trips an outlet's electrical circuit when it senses something that could be an arc-fault — a potentially dangerous spark in the electric line. The problem with today's arc-fault detectors is that...

Briefs : Materials
Method 3D-Prints Marine-Grade Stainless Steel

Marine-grade stainless steel is valued for its performance under corrosive environments, and for its high ductility — the ability to bend without breaking under stress. But conventional...

Briefs : Materials
Artificial “Blubber” Protects Divers in Frigid Water

When Navy SEALs carry out dives in Arctic waters, or when rescue teams are diving under ice-covered rivers or ponds, the survival time even in the best wetsuits is very limited — as...

Briefs : Materials
Thermally Conductive Crystals Dissipate Electronics Heat

The inner workings of high-power electronic devices must remain cool to operate reliably. High internal temperatures can make programs run slower, freeze, or shut down. To address this issue, researchers have optimized the crystal-growing process of boron arsenide — a material that has...

Briefs : Software
Simulation Technique Models Material-Aging Process

The nation's aging infrastructure requires massive investment. Imagine if engineers could build structures with materials that do not degrade over time. A simulation technique was developed that could help engineers do just that.

Briefs : Materials
Ultra-Low Power Consumption for Data Recording

New phase change material was developed that has electrical characteristics that behave differently than those of conventional materials. This new material provides a drastic reduction in power consumption for data recording in nonvolatile random access memory (RAM).

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Microcontroller Altimeter (uCA)

Traditional altitude switch designs for harsh environments are mechanical in nature and operate by means of an inflatable bladder or bellows that mechanically depresses a pushbutton switch. The altitude trip point is set by mechanically adjusting the distance of the switch to the bellows. The mechanical action of...

Briefs : Medical
Portable Brain Imaging System

Currently, concussion is measured by the symptoms someone experiences, but it is difficult to know what is happening in the brain in any one person. To address this problem, a portable brain imaging system was...

Briefs : Materials
Graphene Oxide Nanosheets for Lithium-Metal Batteries

Lithium-metal batteries — which can hold up to ten times more charge than lithium-ion batteries — haven't been commercialized because of a fatal flaw: as the batteries charge and...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Self-Powered Paper Patch Measures Glucose

The most common methods for glucose self-testing involve monitoring glucose levels in blood. These conventional measurements are not suitable for preventing hypoglycemia during exercise. The...

Briefs : Materials
Printing Flexible, Stretchable Silver Nanowire Circuits

Silver nanowires have drawn significant interest in recent years for use in many applications ranging from prosthetic devices to wearable health sensors due to their flexibility,...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Modification of SURFICE Code

As part of the continued thermal support for the Space Launch System (SLS) program, MSFC is constantly developing or modifying software tools to aid in analytical efforts to solve thermal issues and problems posed by the project. In some cases, existing software used by previous heritage programs provides an...