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 : Medical
Plastic Optic Fiber—An Evolving Technology

Plastic Optic Fiber (POF) is an established, continually evolving technology available since the early 1980s. From the outset, it was a technology not highly visible for years. At times, it was utilized as a media product within another product, attached to a variety of opto-couplers or light sources....

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Slowing Light Via Beam Coupling in Dye-Doped Chiral Nematics

Apart from the fundamental interest of discovering the physical effects that are behind the light-matter interaction processes that make it possible, slowing and storing light currently attracts a lot of attention because the ability to control the propagation speed of optical pulses,...

Briefs : Lighting
Device Captures Signatures with Tiny Piezo-Phototronic LEDs

Using thousands of nanometer-scale wires, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a sensor device that converts mechanical pressure – from a signature or a fingerprint – directly into light signals that can be captured and processed optically. The sensor...

Briefs : Lighting
New Kind of Ultraviolet LED Could Lead to Portable, Low-Cost Devices

Commercial uses for ultraviolet (UV) light are growing, and now a new kind of LED under development at The Ohio State University could lead to more portable and low-cost uses of the technology. The patent-pending LED creates a more precise wavelength of UV light than today’s...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
A Short-Range Distance Sensor with Exceptional Linearity

A sensor has been demonstrated that can measure distance over a total range of about 300 microns to an accuracy of about 0.1 nm (resolution of about 0.01 nm). This represents an exceptionally large dynamic range of operation — over 1,000,000. The sensor is optical in nature, and requires...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Fast, Large-Area, Wide-Bandgap UV Photodetector for Cherenkov Light Detection

Due to limited resources available for power and space for payloads, miniaturizing and integrating instrumentation is a high priority for addressing the challenges of manned and unmanned deep space missions to high Earth orbit (HEO), near Earth objects (NEOs), Lunar...

Briefs : Information Technology
Commercial Non-Dispersive Infrared Spectroscopy Sensors for Sub-Ambient Carbon Dioxide Detection

Carbon dioxide produced through respiration can accumulate rapidly within closed spaces. If not managed, a crew’s respiratory rate increases, head aches and hyperventilation occur, vision and hearing are affected, and cognitive abilities decrease....

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Miniature Trace Gas Detector Based on Microfabricated Optical Resonators

While a variety of techniques exist to monitor trace gases, methods relying on absorption of laser light are the most commonly used in terrestrial applications. Cavity-enhanced absorption techniques typically use high-reflectivity mirrors to form a resonant cavity, inside...

Briefs : Software
Mission Data System Java Edition Version 7

The Mission Data System framework defines closed-loop control system abstractions from State Analysis including interfaces for state variables, goals, estimators, and controllers that can be adapted to implement a goal-oriented control system. The framework further provides an execution environment that...

Briefs : Software
Adaptive Distributed Environment for Procedure Training (ADEPT)

ADEPT (Adaptive Distributed Environment for Procedure Training) is designed to provide more effective, flexible, and portable training for NASA systems controllers. When creating a training scenario, an exercise author can specify a representative rationale structure using the...

Briefs : Software
LEGEND, a LEO-to-GEO Environment Debris Model

LEGEND (LEO-to-GEO Environment Debris model) is a three-dimensional orbital debris evolutionary model that is capable of simulating the historical and future debris populations in the near- Earth environment. The historical component in LEGEND adopts a deterministic approach to mimic the known...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Millimeter-Wave Localizers for Aircraft-to-Aircraft Approach Navigation

Aerial refueling technology for both manned and unmanned aircraft is critical for operations where extended aircraft flight time is required. Existing refueling assets are typically manned aircraft, which couple to a second aircraft through the use of a refueling boom....

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
SpaceCube Version 1.5

SpaceCube 1.5 is a high-performance and low-power system in a compact form factor. It is a hybrid processing system consisting of CPU (central processing unit), FPGA (field-programmable gate array), and DSP (digital signal processor) processing elements. The primary processing engine is the Virtex-5 FX100T FPGA, which has...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Impedance Discontinuity Reduction Between High-Speed Differential Connectors and PCB Interfaces

High-speed serial communication (i.e., Gigabit Ethernet) requires differential transmission and controlled impedances. Impedance control is essential throughout cabling, connector, and circuit board construction.

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Non-Magnetic, Tough, Corrosion- and Wear-Resistant Knives From Bulk Metallic Glasses and Composites

Quality knives are typically fabricated from high-strength steel alloys. Depending on the application, there are different requirements for mechanical and physical properties that cause problems for steel alloys. For example, diver’s knives are...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
High-Pressure Lightweight Thrusters

Returning samples of Martian soil and rock to Earth is of great interest to scientists. There were numerous studies to evaluate Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission architectures, technology needs, development plans, and requirements. The largest propulsion risk element of the MSR mission is the Mars Ascent...

Briefs : Materials
Applications for Gradient Metal Alloys Fabricated Using Additive Manufacturing

Recently, additive manufacturing (AM) techniques have been developed that may shift the paradigm of traditional metal production by allowing complex netshaped hardware to be built up layer-by-layer, rather than being machined from a billet. The AM process is...

Briefs : Materials
Ambient Dried Aerogels

A method has been developed for creating aerogel using normal pressure and ambient temperatures. All spacecraft, satellites, and landers require the use of thermal insulation due to the extreme environments encountered in space and on extraterrestrial bodies. Ambient dried aerogels introduce the possibility of using...

Briefs : Materials
Passivation of Flexible YBCO Superconducting Current Lead With Amorphous SiO2 Layer

Adiabatic demagnetization refrigerators (ADR) are operated in space to cool detectors of cosmic radiation to a few 10s of mK. A key element of the ADR is a superconducting magnet operating at about 0.3 K that is continually energized and de-energized in...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Method to Increase Performance of Foil Bearings Through Passive Thermal Management

This invention is a new approach to designing foil bearings to increase their load capacity and improve their reliability through passive thermal management. In the present case, the bearing is designed in such a way as to prevent the carryover of lubricant from...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Propellant-Flow-Actuated Rocket Engine Igniter

A rocket engine igniter has been created that uses a pneumatically driven hammer that, by specialized geometry, is induced into an oscillatory state that can be used to either repeatedly impact a piezoelectric crystal with sufficient force to generate a spark capable of initiating combustion, or can...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Unibody Composite Pressurized Structure

An integrated, generic unibody composite pressurized structure (UCPS) combined with a positive expulsion device (PED), consisting of an elastomeric bladder for monopropellant hydrazine, has been quasi-standardized for spacecraft use. The combination functions as an all-composite, nonmetallic, propellant...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Lightweight Liquid Helium Dewar for High-Altitude Balloon Payloads

Astrophysical observations at millimeter wavelengths require large (2-to-5- meter diameter) telescopes carried to altitudes above 35 km by scientific research balloons. The scientific performance is greatly enhanced if the telescope is cooled to temperatures below 10 K with no...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Enhancing Microwave Spectroscopy in Astrophysics Applications

In popular perception, the vastness of space is an empty vacuum dotted with stars, planets, black holes, and other celestial formations. In reality, astrophysicists have shown that space contains low-density matter — gas clouds, dust grains, and more — existing in ionic, atomic,...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
JWST Integrated Science Instrument Module Alignment Optimization Tool

During cryogenic vacuum testing of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM), the global alignment of the ISIM with respect to the designed interface of the JWST optical telescope element (OTE) will be measured through a series of...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Radar Range Sidelobe Reduction Using Adaptive Pulse Compression Technique

Pulse compression has been widely used in radars so that low-power, long RF pulses can be transmitted, rather than a high-power short pulse. Pulse compression radars offer a number of advantages over high-power short pulsed radars, such as no need of highpower RF...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Digitally Calibrated TR Modules Enabling Real-Time Beamforming SweepSAR Architectures

SweepSAR, a novel radar architecture that depends on a DBF (digital beamforming) array, requires calibration accuracies that are order(s) of magnitude greater than is possible with traditional techniques, such as a priori characterization of TR...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Electro-Optic Time-to-Space Converter for Optical Detector Jitter Mitigation

A common problem in optical detection is determining the arrival time of a weak optical pulse that may comprise only one to a few photons. Currently, this problem is solved by using a photodetector to convert the optical signal to an electronic signal. The timing of the...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Partially Transparent Petaled Mask/Occulter for Visible-Range Spectrum

The presence of the Poisson Spot, also known as the spot of Arago, has been known since the 18th century. This spot is the consequence of constructive interference of light diffracted by the edge of the obstacle where the central position can be determined by symmetry of the...

Briefs : Information Technology
Predicting Aircraft Ice Formation with Simulation

Aircraft performance can be compromised when ice forms on aircraft surfaces such as the wings, nacelles, sensors, and control systems. This can cause safety issues due to significant changes in the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft if larger pieces of ice detach and strike other parts of...