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 : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Submarine Swims Without an Engine

Researchers have developed a new propulsion concept for swimming robots that exploits temperature fluctuations in the water for propulsion without the need for an engine, propellant, or power supply.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Reusable Breakaway Mounting Device

Breakaway devices are used to mount objects to systems or structures (for example, cars, drones, helmets, buildings) and prevent damage when the objects fall away from the system. Unfortunately, even in ideal scenarios, many of these devices have limitations. Breakaway bolts and shear pins have the complication...

Briefs : Energy
Battery Provides Electric Vehicles with Immunity from Climate Conditions

Conventional lithium-ion batteries cannot be rapidly charged at temperatures below 50 °F. Electric vehicles are popular on the West Coast because the weather is...

Briefs : Energy
Thermochromic Windows Convert Sunlight into Electricity

Relying on advanced materials such as perovskites and single-walled carbon nano-tubes, a window technology was developed that responds to heat by transforming from transparent to...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
A New Twist Makes Rotating Machinery More Efficient and Quieter

Derived from a design approach for a new wing known as PRANDTL-D, this technology achieves similar improvements for propellers and other rotating machinery.

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Active Pointing Monitor for a 2-Axis Optical Control System

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a pointing measurement detection and control system that monitors the real-time optical axis motions (such as tip and tilt) that affect image quality in aerial platforms. To date, there is no known real-time optical image alignment and...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Bringing Intelligence to Vibration Monitoring Solutions

In today’s competitive manufacturing environment, efficiency is more important than ever. Leading manufacturers are driving improvements based on real-time data. This white paper discusses several common obstacles for machine monitoring in the factory and introduces the all-in-one data...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Method Enables Electronic Components to be Printed Like Newspapers

Cellphones, laptops, tablets, and many other electronics rely on their internal metallic circuits to process information at high speed. Current metal fabrication techniques...

Briefs : Medical
Wireless System Pinpoints Location of Ingestible Implants

An “in-body GPS” system was developed that can pinpoint the location of ingestible implants inside the body using low-power wireless signals. These implants could be used as tiny tracking devices on shifting tumors to help monitor their slight movements. The system, called ReMix, can...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Piezoelectric Resonator with Two Layers

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) filters have advantages in being able to reduce the size, weight, and power required when used as part of electronic systems such as radios; however, MEMS-type filters have limitations. For example, thickness MEMS-type filters (e.g., thickness-extensional mode...

Briefs : Nanotechnology
Nano-Additives Increase the Service Life of Concrete

A new method increases the service life of concrete structures by reducing the infiltration rates of deleterious ions. The key is a nano-sized additive that slows down penetration of...

Briefs : Medical
Kit Containing Stem Cells and Cytokines for Use in Attenuating Immune Responses

Stem cells have two distinct characteristics that distinguish them from other cell types. First, they are unspecialized and can self-renew for long periods without significant changes in their general properties. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Self-Healing Metal Oxides for Corrosion Protection

Most metals, with the notable exception of gold, tend to oxidize when exposed to air and water. This reaction — which produces rust on iron, tarnish on silver, and verdigris on copper or...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
A Biologically Inspired Method of Improving Systems and Survivability Through Self-Sacrifice

In human beings, the self-destruction behavior of human body cells is considered as an intrinsic safety mechanism of the human body. It seems that the lifetime of a cell is programmed, and that cells know when to commit suicide. This self-destruction is...

Briefs : Energy
Energy-Storing Material Folds Onto Itself

Eagles can store energy in their feet without having to continuously contract their muscles to then jump high or hold on to prey. New materials have been created that can store energy this way. The...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Super-Resolution Image Reconstruction (SRIR)

Many low-cost sensors (or cameras) may spatially or electronically under-sample an image. Similarly, cameras taking pictures from great distances, such as aerial photos, may not obtain detailed...

Briefs : Medical
Machine Learning Method Detects Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S., one in every four deaths is a result of heart...

Briefs : Software
Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration

Robots that are adapted to respond to physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) traditionally treat such interactions as disturbances, and resume their original behaviors when the...

Briefs : Aerospace
Synthesis and Development of Polyurethane Coatings Containing Fluorine Groups for Adhesive Applications

Accumulation of insect strikes on the leading edge of airplane wings is a more serious problem than one might realize. Depending on the magnitude, such accumulation changes the aerodynamic characteristics of the wing, causing a change from...

Briefs : Energy
Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment

Colloids — insoluble particles or molecules anywhere from a billionth to a millionth of a meter across — are so small they can stay suspended indefinitely in a liquid or even in air. Robots about...

Briefs : Materials
Inorganic Compound for Use in Quantum Computing

Quantum computers will be able to solve problems well beyond the reach of existing computers while working much faster and consuming vastly less energy. An inorganic compound was developed that...

Briefs : Materials
Bacteria-Fighting Polymers Created with Light

Hundreds of polymers that could kill drug-resistant superbugs in novel ways can be produced and tested using light. The new method may help identify antimicrobials for a range of applications from personal care to coatings.

Briefs : Materials
One-Dimensional Material with High Current Density

Current density is the amount of electrical current per cross-sectional area at a given point. As transistors in integrated circuits become smaller and smaller, they need higher and higher...

Briefs : Imaging
Retinal Prosthesis Stimulates Nerve Cells

Fabricated using inexpensive and widely available organic pigments used in printing inks and cosmetics, an artificial retina was developed that consists of tiny pixels like a digital camera sensor on...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
A Robust Waveguide Millimeter-Wave Noise Source

A noise source is an enabling technology for passive millimeter-wave remote sensing applications such as atmospheric sounding, and precipitation and ice cloud measurements. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a packaged noise source that will allow calibration of the front end at the...

Briefs : Imaging
Ultra-Thin Camera Creates Images Without Lenses

Traditional cameras — even those on the thinnest cellphones — cannot be truly flat due to their optics. The lenses require a certain shape and size in order to function. A new camera design...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Two-Dimensional Semiconductor Materials Created Using Artificial “Superlattices”

One current method to build a semiconductor superlattice — materials comprised of alternating layers of ultra-thin, two-dimensional sheets only one or a...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
On-Chip Optical Filter Processes Wide Range of Light Wavelengths

MIT researchers have designed an optical filter on a chip that can process optical signals from across an extremely wide spectrum of light at once, something never before...

Briefs : Imaging
Next-Generation Photodetector Camera to Deploy During Robotic Servicing Demonstration Mission

An advanced, highly compact thermal camera that traces its heritage to one now flying on NASA's Landsat 8 has been mounted in a corner of NASA's...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Photonic Communication Comes to Computer Chips

With novel optoelectronic chips and a new partnership with a top silicon-chip manufacturer, MIT spinout Ayar Labs aims to increase speed and reduce energy consumption in computing, starting with...