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 : Materials
Thermomechanical Methodology for Stabilizing Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) Response

Shape memory alloys (SMAs), sometimes known as “smart metals,” provide a lightweight, solid-state alternative to conventional actuators and switches, such as hydraulic, pneumatic, or motor-based systems. To function properly, SMAs must be “trained” to return...

Briefs : Materials
Flexible Ablator for Thermal Protection

NASA has developed a class of low-density, flexible ablators that can be fabricated into heat-shields capable of being packaged, stowed, and deployed in space. The key characteristics of this new ablative thermal protection system (TPS) are its flexibility, conformability, and tailor-ability. Flexibility...

Briefs : Materials
Resistive Heating Method for TPS Property Measurements

A unique ultrasonic-based technique has been developed to measure temperature profiles in materials used in thermal protection systems (TPS). The technology requires measurements of the thermal expansion coefficient and the ultrasonic velocity for these materials as a function of temperature...

Briefs : Materials
Measuring Bond Site Concentration on the Intrinsic Aerogel Surface Through Chemisorption of Chlorosilanes

This work involves development of aerogel to be used as a passive absorption media — effectively a concentrator of trace organics — that can be detected by optical techniques. Such a trace organic detection scheme is very different from...

Briefs : Materials
Toughened Uni-piece Fibrous Reinforced Oxidation-Resistant Composite (TUFROC)

The Toughened Uni-piece Fibrous Reinforced Oxidation-Resistant Composite (TUFROC) allows for much more affordable and sustainable operations involving Space Launch Services and other systems that utilize Earth re-entry vehicles. TUFROC has an exposed surface design and...

Briefs : Materials
Effects of Postcure and Associated Design Allowables for M55J/RS-3C Polycyanate Composite

M55J/RS-3C resin composite structures on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) sunshield will concurrently maintain loads and be exposed to temperature extremes throughout the life of the observatory. Increasing the glass transition temperature (Tg) is...

Briefs : Aerospace
Airfoil System for Cruising Flight

Flaps can significantly alter wing aerodynamics for high lift generation. Conventional flaps are mainly deployed for takeoff and landing, but are not suitable for in-cruise flight. It is widely speculated that birds and insects utilize their wing flexibility, particularly at the trailing edges, for effective...

Briefs : Aerospace
Conditionally Active Min-Max Limit Regulators

The control system in modern commercial aircraft engines is designed to operate the engine in a safe manner throughout its operating envelope. In order to utilize the existing safety margins more effectively, innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed a modification to current...

Briefs : Aerospace
Design of the Next-Generation Aircraft Noise Prediction Program (ANOPP2)

Community noise has been an ongoing problem for aircraft, and is projected to be a major concern in the future due to increased air traffic. NASA’s Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP), Integrated Aviation Systems Program (IASP), and Transformative Aeronautics Concepts...

Briefs : Aerospace
The Integrated Minimum Drag Solution: New Wing Design Exponentially Increases Total Aircraft Efficiency

Innovators at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center are experimenting with a new wing design that removes adverse yaw and dramatically increases aircraft efficiency by reducing drag. The technology has the potential to significantly...

Briefs : Aerospace
X-Plane Communication Toolbox (XPC)

The X-Plane Connect Toolbox is an open-source research tool used to interact with the commercial flight simulator software X-Plane. XPC allows users to control aircraft and receive real-time state information from aircraft simulated in X-Plane using functions written in C, C++, Java, MathWorks’ MATLAB, or...

Tech Briefs : Aerospace
Terminal Airspace Configuration Scheduler (TACS)

In the current National Airspace System (NAS), there are many airports that are capacity-limited during the busiest parts of the day, and air traffic is expected to increase substantially in the future. NASA and the FAA are looking toward technologies that improve the capacity and efficiency of...

Briefs : Communications
Heterogeneous Spacecraft Networks

Heterogeneous Spacecraft Networks (HSNs) are network environments in which spacecraft from different missions and institutions can communicate with each other at a low cost and with low impact on overall system resources. The technology of heterogeneous wireless networks has yet to be extended to space networks,...

Briefs : Communications
Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams

NASA has developed a new technology for space optical communications, including communications from the Earth to spacecraft in Earth orbit and in deep space, such as at the Moon and Mars. The innovation changes the architecture of space optical communications so that a new laser beam pointing...

Briefs : Communications
Hybrid Loop Element Design for Enhanced High-Frequency Reflector/Reflectarray Performance

The purpose of this invention is to provide a novel, low-loss, dual-band reflectarray element design that is transparent and low-loss across one frequency band (Ka-band in the initial application), and provides the phasing and beam collimation capability...

Briefs : Communications
Using a Power Grid as an Extremely Large Antenna for Geophysical Imaging

Geomagnetic storms drive geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) in high-voltage power transmission systems. GICs thus carry information about the near-space environment conditions. The U.S. high-voltage power transmission system was used as an extremely large antenna to...

Briefs : Medical
A Simplified Production of Organic Compounds Containing High Enantiomer Excesses

NASA has developed a novel approach for producing sugars and sugar acids enriched with one of the two enantiomers of individual compounds. This approach can also be adapted for other compounds, such as amino acids. All objects, including chemical compounds, have...

Briefs : Medical
Generation of High-Pressure Oxygen Via Electrochemical Pumping in a Multi-Stage Electrolysis Stack

Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed a method for producing pure high-pressure oxygen via an electrochemical pumping process through a solid oxide electrolysis (SOE) cell stack. Glenn’s device can either concentrate the...

Briefs : Medical
Tension Distribution in Tendon-Driven Fingers

Researchers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot called Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple component technologies and systems encompassing nearly 50 patented and...

Briefs : Medical
Rapid Polymer Sequencer

Solid-state nanopore-based analysis of nucleic acid polymers is revolutionary. No other technique can determine information content in single molecules of genetic material at speeds of 1 subunit per microsecond. Since individual molecules are counted, the output is intrinsically quantitative. The nanopore approach is more...

Briefs : Software
Adaptive Refinement Tools for Tetrahedral Unstructured Grids

NASA’s Langley Research Center engineers have developed a new software package for more facile computational fluid dynamics. The software’s fast user run time, robustness, and efficiency have enabled its extensive use in space shuttle modeling. Adaptive Refinement Tool (ART)...

Briefs : Software
Self-Stabilizing, Byzantine-Fault-Tolerant Clock Synchronization System and Method

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a portfolio of technologies regarding clock synchronization in distributed systems. Distributed synchronous systems that need to provide globally coordinated operations require each component (node) in the system to...

Briefs : Software
Method of Performing Computational Aeroelastic Analyses

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed unsteady aerodynamic Reduced-Order Models (ROMs) that significantly improve computational efficiency compared to traditional analyses of aeroelastic and other complex and unsteady systems. Traditional methods rely on the repetitive use of...

Briefs : Software
Fourier Transform Spectrometer Performance Modeling

This software models the performance of a Fourier transform spectrometer (FTS). More specifically, it is able to add a number of noise/error sources to the interferogram and transform the errors back to the spectral domain.

Briefs : Software
Mesh Adaptation Module for Cartesian Meshes with Embedded Boundaries

This work extends the mesh generation capability of NASA’s Cart3D flow simulation software package to permit cell-by-cell mesh enrichment. Cart3D allows users to perform automated Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis on a complex geometry. It includes utilities for...

Briefs : Imaging
3D Imaging Laser System

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a non-scanning, 3D imaging laser system that uses a simple lens system to simultaneously generate a one-dimensional or two-dimensional array of optical (light) spots to illuminate an object, surface, or image to generate a topographic profile.

Briefs : Imaging
Smart Image Enhancement Process

NASA’s Langley Research Center researchers have developed an automatic measurement and control method for smart image enhancement. Pilots, doctors, and photographers will benefit from this innovation that offers a new approach to image processing. Initial advantages will be seen in improved medical imaging and...

Briefs : Imaging
Compact Thermal Neutron Imaging System Using Axisymmetric Focusing Mirrors

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed novel neutron grazing incidence optics for use with small-scale portable neutron generators. The technology was developed to enable the use of commercially available neutron generators for applications requiring high...

Briefs : Imaging
High-Speed Edge-Detecting Circuit for Use with Linear Image Sensor

A new smart camera developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center has the ability to process and transmit valuable edge location data for the images that it captures — at a rate of over 900 frames per second. The camera was designed to operate as a component in an inlet shock...

Briefs : Imaging
Two- and Three-Dimensional Near-Infrared Subcutaneous Structure Imager Using Adaptive Nonlinear Video Processing

Scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have successfully developed a novel subcutaneous structure imager for locating veins in challenging patient populations, such as juvenile, elderly, dark-skinned, or obese patients. Spurred...

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