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: Robotics, Automation & Control
Evolving and Controlling Behaviors in a Computation-Free Robot Swarm

Flocks of birds, schools of fish, and colonies of ants exhibit a remarkable robustness and resilience, despite the limited capabilities of each individual. Recently, research into bio-inspired swarm robotics has been gaining popularity due to the low-cost, robust, redundant,...

Briefs: Test & Measurement
Component Leak Test Apparatus

A component leak test apparatus investigates the performance of fittings at low temperature and/or high pressure. Its performance was quantified by measuring the ability to hold cold pressurized gaseous helium...

A collective rattling effect in a type of crystalline semiconductor was discovered to block most heat transfer while preserving high electrical conductivity — a rare pairing...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping
High-Resolution, 3D Cell-Printing of Living Tissues

Printing high-resolution living tissues is difficult, as the cells often move within printed structures, and can collapse on themselves. A method of 3D-printing laboratory-grown cells to form living structures was developed that produces tissues in self-contained cells that support the...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping
Stress-Induced Nanofabrication

Currently, the synthesis of nanomaterials relies on special inter-particle chemical and physical reactions, which restricts their development. However, stress-induced nanofabrication can effectively render arrays of nanomaterials uniform in length, diameter, and density.

Briefs: Materials
Inorganic-Organic Hybrid Polymers for High-Temperature Applications

A new class of polymeric materials was developed with resistance to heat, dielectric breakdown, and oxidation at high temperatures. For applications that demand high temperature resistance coupled with greater strength, these polymers can be easily transformed into ceramics with...

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have created the first functional robot powered entirely by vacuum. It is made of soft building blocks that move by having air sucked...

An engineering team at the University of California San Diego has designed and built a gripper that can pick up and manipulate objects without needing to see them and without being...

Scientists at Disney Research have developed a modular, reconfigurable legged robot named Snapbot that can move forward, interact with its environment, and perform other tasks based on a number of...

Origami has once again inspired engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Besides aesthetic beauty, the Japanese tradition of paper-folding addresses a persistent problem...

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. With a 21-foot diameter, the telescope’s primary mirror is six times larger than the one used by...

Fine-grained human motion tracing — the ability to trace the trajectory of a moving human hand or leg, or even the whole body — is a general capability that is useful in a wide variety of...

The slippery state caused by water or oil is called superlubricity — where there is basically no friction on a surface. In graphene, this superlubricity state comes from atomic orbitals that...

Briefs: Communications
Zero-Power Radio Receiver

There are several different types of wireless radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that are truly zero-power radios. Currently, most unpowered wireless RFID tags only have a range of a few meters. There are longrange, low-powered tags that draw energy either from a battery or some other form of localized power. A...

Silicon has several qualities that have led it to become the bedrock of electronics. One is that it features a very good “native” insulator — silicon dioxide, or...

Briefs: Communications
System Integrates High-Speed Data and Wireless Power Transfer

Sources of wireless power — such as wireless cellphone charging pads — require near-physical contact with the pad, limiting the usefulness of a truly wireless power source. Recent work has extended wireless power to mid-range, which can supply power at inches to feet of...

A large-area detector without any dead space capable of handling a large dynamic range does not currently exist. Current large-area detectors have dead zones created by abutting several modules...

Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
KSC Weather Data Archive

The Spaceport Weather Data Archive provides a fully searchable database of weather data gathered at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Not only can the user easily retrieve data and download it, but the user can also view graphically the weather data on a map overlay. The data are...

A device has been developed that is capable of relatively lengthy unattended operations and high sampling frequency of underwater environmental data anywhere in the world. The...

Moving target indication (MTI) methodologies are essential tools to detect, locate, recognize, and track the moving targets of interest in a movie or video sequence. Different MTI methodologies can be...

A new high-isolation RF circulator provides enhanced detection ranges (radar) and improved reception (communications) by reducing signal leakage and undesirable internal reflections between...

WiFi signals are everywhere. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) are expected to become a larger part of everyday life. A new methodology was developed for high-resolution,...

Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have developed a machine-to-machine (M2M) network navigation protocol to enable spacecraft to perform autonomous navigation and positioning,...

Briefs: Materials
Aluminum Alloy for High-Temperature Applications

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center originally developed a high-performance piston alloy to meet U.S. legislative restrictions on vehicular exhaust hydrocarbon emissions. NASA 398 aluminum alloy exhibits excellent tensile and fatigue strength at elevated temperatures. NASA 398 alloy also offers...

Briefs: Materials
Strong, Self-Healing Rubber

Self-healing hydrogels rely on water to incorporate reversible bonds that can promote healing. Engineering self-healing properties in dry materials, such as rubber, has proven more challenging because rubber is...

Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
Electromagnetic Mop (EMop) for Oil Spill Cleanup

The spillage of oil into the environment is an ongoing concern. Marine oil spills draw much attention because the oil harms marine animals and floral life. Current methods to aid in cleaning up the oil include containment booms, oil skimmers, and dispersants. Chemical dispersants are a tradeoff...

Briefs: Materials
Multi-Functional Yarns and Fabrics with Anti-Microbial, Anti-Static, and Anti-Odor Characteristics

Prior art fabrics used to manufacture military combat uniforms typically are made from yarns comprised of a blend of cotton and nylon fibers. This blend supports dyeing and printing techniques that use a combination of acid and vat dyes to impart a...

Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
Detecting Low-Level Harmful Substances in a Large Volume of Fluid

There are many applications requiring the detection and concentration of harmful substances in a fluid; for example, detecting the presence and concentration of a microbial pathogen in a source of drinking water such as a lake, reservoir, river, stream, storage tank, water main,...

Briefs: Green Design & Manufacturing
Flood Impact Analysis Tool

NASA Langley resides in an area prone to tidal flooding. During events that were expected to lead to flooding, there were requests for maps showing the predicted flood level and what infrastructure may be impacted,...

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