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
Wake Vortex Avoidance System and Method

NASA Langley Research Center scientists have developed a microphone that detects infrasound, i.e., acoustic waves ranging from 20-Hz frequencies down to DC. Infrasound is emitted in a number of...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Transparent Test Patch Determines Food Contamination

A transparent test patch, printed with harmless molecules, signals food contamination as it happens. The patch can be incorporated directly into food packaging, where it can monitor the contents for harmful pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella. The new technology has the potential to...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Virtual Test Laboratory

The mechanical properties of sheet metal materials are directional. Their deformation behavior and their strength differ significantly depending on the viewing direction; for example, in the direction of rolling, or...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Passive RFID Tag with Long Range and Wide Coverage Capabilities

Researchers at NASA Johnson Space Center have developed the RFID Tag with Long Range and Wide Coverage Capabilities technology that allows a RFID tag to direct a RFID reader beam signal back in the direction of arrival. This technology requires no added power to provide telemetry...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Measurement Technique for Continuous-Wave, Modulated, and Pulsed Monochromatic Radiation

In many applications, such as remote sensing of atmospheric trace gases, monochromatic radiation with multiple discrete wavelengths is required. To date, there no instrument or technique that measures the wavelength jitters and fluctuations in real time.

Briefs : Communications
The Teletenna — a Hybrid Telescope Antenna System

Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed a hybrid telescope antenna system — Teletenna — to deliver high-data-rate communication over great distances. Teletenna has...

Briefs : Materials
Nickel with Nanoscale Pores Has the Strength of Titanium and Density of Water

Titanium is as strong as steel but about twice as light. These properties depend on the way a metal’s atoms are stacked but random defects that arise in the...

Briefs : Materials
Self-Healing, Fluid-Inspired Material

Even tiny cracks can cause bridges to collapse, pipelines to rupture, and fuselages to detach from airplanes due to hard-to-detect corrosion in tiny cracks, scratches, and dents. A new coating strategy for metal self-heals within seconds when scratched, scraped, or cracked. The novel material could prevent...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Laser Ranging Can See 3D Objects Melting in Fires

Optical range measurements, already used in manufacturing and other fields, may help overcome practical challenges posed by structural fires, which are too hot to measure with conventional...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Chip Measures Quantities with Quantum Precision

Many devices use light to probe the quantum states of atoms in a vapor confined in a small cell. Atoms can be highly sensitive to external conditions, and therefore make superb detectors....

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Graphene's Magic Is in the Defects

A team of researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and NYU Center for Neural Science has solved a longstanding puzzle of how to build ultra-sensitive, ultra-small, electrochemical...

Briefs : Medical
Using Inkjet Printers to Build a New Biosensor for Less Invasive Breast Cancer Detection

Researchers at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NBIB) have created a novel, low-cost biosensor to detect Human Epidermal...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Researchers Develop Sensors to Detect and Measure Cancer's Ability to Spread

The spread of invasive cancer cells from a tumor's original site to distant parts of the body is known as metastasis. It is the leading cause of death in people...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
New Wristband Provides Personalized and Real-Time Tracking of UV Exposure

A paper-based sensor, which can be worn as a wristband, features happy and sad emoticon faces drawn in an invisible UV-sensitive ink. They successively light up as you...

Briefs : Lighting
Text Tech: Navy Vessels Use Shipboard Signal Lamps for Text Messaging

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) TechSolutions program, the Flashing Light to Text Converter (FLTC) features a camera that can be mounted atop a signal...

Briefs : Medical
Nano-Optic Endoscope Sees Deep into Tissue at High Resolution

The diagnosis of diseases based in internal organs often relies on biopsy samples collected from affected regions. But collecting such samples is highly error-prone due to the...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Individual Quantum Dots Imaged in 3-D for the First Time

Researchers have developed an imaging technique that uses a tiny, super sharp needle to nudge a single nanoparticle into different orientations and capture 2-D images to help...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
New Fast, Economical Bioimaging Technique

Researchers at Rensselaer Poytechnic Institute (RPI) have developed a new approach to optical imaging that makes it possible to quickly and economically monitor multiple molecular interactions in a...

Briefs : Propulsion
New Engine Optics to Fuel Future Research

An optical setup developed by researchers at Sandia's Combustion Research Facility and the Technical University of Denmark can now quantify the formation of soot — particulate matter consisting...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
A Marriage of Light-Manipulation Technologies

Researchers have, for the first time, integrated two technologies widely used in applications such as optical communications, bio-imaging, and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) systems. In the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Researchers Combine Metalens With an Artificial Muscle

Inspired by the human eye, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed an adaptive metalens that is essentially a flat,...

Briefs : Packaging & Sterilization
X-Ray Study of Low-Density Materials

It's hard to get an X-ray image of low-density material like tissue between bones because X-rays just pass right through like sunlight through a window. Sandia studies myriads of low-density materials,...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Microfabrication Technique Modifies Semiconductor Material Atom-by-Atom

To keep up with Moore's Law — an observation made in the 1960s that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles about every two years — researchers...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Precision Low-Speed Motor Controller

Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center have developed a method for controlling precise motion of a brushless DC (BLDC) motor using relatively inexpensive components. Precision motors are usually quite expensive and inefficient when operating at slow speeds. Current motors are only capable of operating at...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Composable Storage Platform for High-Performance Computing

Large-scale, high-performance computing — supercomputing — is essential to solving both complex and large questions. But storage platforms essential for these advanced computer systems have been stuck in a rigid framework that required users to either choose between customization of...

Briefs : Transportation
Airborne Machine Learning Estimates for Local Winds and Kinematics

Future Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and air taxis will require advanced onboard autonomy to operate safely within complex and dynamic urban environments. Urban landscapes...

Briefs : Propulsion
Green Electric Monopropellant (GEM)-Fueled Pulsed Plasma Thruster

NASA required a rocket thruster able to produce a number of pulses at high specific impulse at a relatively low voltage (~300 to 400V). The key problem was that existing propellants for liquid-fueled pulsed plasma thrusters (LPPTs) required high voltages to ablate and accelerate...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Multi-Purpose, Flexible Wing Structure for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as micro air vehicles, are promising tools for a variety of military and commercial applications. Some small UAS have flexible wings and are lightweight, making them back-packable and easy to deploy. Most UAS that are...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
“Light-Written” Photonic Memory Devices

Light is the most energy-efficient way to move information; however, light shows one big limitation: it is difficult to store. Data centers, for example, rely primarily on magnetic hard drives in...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Flexible, Spinning Heat Shield for Spacecraft

Heat shields are essentially used as the brakes to stop spacecraft from burning up and crashing on entry and reentry into a planet's atmosphere. Current spacecraft heat shield methods include...

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