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 : Aerospace
Automated Conflict Resolution for Air Traffic Control (AAC) Versions 1 and 2

A conflict resolution algorithm that can provide automated separation assurance for the next-generation air traffic control system has been developed. The algorithm generates resolution trajectories that can be sent to the aircraft from a ground-based system via a data...

Briefs : Medical
Platform Enables Modeling of a Human Heart on an Engineered Chip

Prescription drugs have enabled millions of Americans with chronic medical conditions to live longer and more fulfilling lives, but many promising new drugs never make it to...

Briefs : Imaging
Method and Means to Analyze Thermographic Data Acquired During Automated Fiber Placement

Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) machines can be susceptible to tow-tape defects such as gaps and overlaps. These can reduce strength between 7% and 32%....

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Wearable “Microbrewery” Monitors Radiation Exposure

Radiology workers are regularly exposed to low doses of radiation when they obtain patient imagery such as X-rays. While protective gear largely keeps workers within a safe range of...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Membrane-Enhanced Lamina Emergent Torsion (M-LET) Joints

Lamina emergent compliant mechanisms (including origami-adapted compliant mechanisms) are mechanical devices that can be fabricated from a planar material (a lamina) and have motion...

Briefs : Medical
Dynamic Spine Brace Characterizes Spine Deformities

Spine deformities, such as idiopathic scoliosis and kyphosis (also known as “hunchback”), are characterized by an abnormal curvature in the spine. The children with these spinal...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Large-Scale Robotic Inkjet Printing System

Painting of surfaces having numerous facets and/or curved surfaces is a time-consuming process that requires the application of several coats (layers) of paint. Such surfaces are often found on...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D Inks Can Be Erased Selectively

3D printing allows for the efficient manufacture of complex geometries. A very promising method is direct laser writing in which a computer-controlled focused laser beam acts as a pen and produces the...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Optical Gyroscope-on-a-Chip

Gyroscopes are devices that help vehicles, drones, and wearable and handheld electronic devices know their orientation in three-dimensional space. Originally, gyroscopes were sets of nested wheels, each spinning...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss

The global bearings market is expected to grow significantly due to increasing commercial and industrial machinery and manufacturing activity. Bearings are used in virtually...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitters (SMARS)

Glenn's revolutionary Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitters (SMARS) device is fabricated from nickel-titanium-halfnium (NiTiHf), nickel-titanium-zirconium compositions, or a combination. These compositions contain a secondary, nanometer-sized precipitate phase that is produced through processes of...

Briefs : Materials
Sandwiching Materials in Nanoelectronics

Many of today's silicon-based electronic components contain 2D materials such as graphene. Incorporating 2D materials like graphene — which is composed of a single-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms...

Briefs : Propulsion
Ducted Fuel Injection for Soot Reduction

Typical direct-injection engines, such as diesel engines, can produce soot due to fuel-rich combustion conditions. Filters and catalytic converters are currently used to reduce soot and harmful...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
Low-Light Night Vision Imaging and Video Capture

Conventional night vision goggles all use image intensification (I2) tube technology that multiplies ambient, visible, and near-infrared light several thousands of times, allowing a user to see and operate in very-low-light conditions. One shortcoming of I2 tube night vision devices is that they...

Briefs : Aerospace
Sensor Combination Detects People by Smell

Trained rescue dogs are the best disaster workers — their sensitive noses help them track down people buried by earthquakes or avalanches. But dogs need breaks. A new measuring device is always...

Briefs : Energy
Ionization-Based Multidirectional Flow Sensor

One significant area of research in fuel cell technology includes systems in which a fuel cell is combined with another power generation device (a turbine, for example) to create a hybrid system that combines the advantages of the two standalone systems, resulting in a high fuel-to-electricity...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Real-Time Ion Mobility Sensor System

A real-time ion mobility sensor developed to detect contaminants and explosives is reliable, sensitive, robust, and inexpensive. The technology improves sensitivity and reduces false alarms for threat agents, and can identify chemicals with a sensitivity of five parts per billion.

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Ultralight Gloves Provide Realistic Haptic Feedback

Engineers and software developers are seeking to create technology that lets users touch, grasp, and manipulate virtual objects while feeling like they are actually touching something in...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones

A process has been developed that enables the production of a 2-mm flat camera. The lens is partitioned into 135 tiny facets, similar to the eyes of an insect. The facetVISION camera is...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Printable Metal Tags Turn Objects into Smart, Connected Devices

Printable metal tags have been developed that could be attached to everyday objects to turn them into “smart” Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The tags are made from...

Briefs : Medical
Algorithm Enables Faster Analysis of Medical Images

Medical image registration is a common technique that involves overlaying two images, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, to compare and analyze anatomical differences in great...

Briefs : Aerospace
Optimetric Measurements Over Coherent Free-Space Optical Communication

High-precision ranging (optimetric) instruments are highly desired for both space navigation and communications as well as gravitational-based science missions. Traditionally, these measurements are made with instruments solely dedicated to ranging (i.e. Doppler shift of a...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Chip with Micro-Hotplate for Self-Healing and Sustainable Electronics

Heat treatment, also known as annealing, is a common step in the semiconductor fabrication process. A buildup of radiation-induced localized charge within the...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
New Laser for Improving Telecommunications and Computing

The first laser based on the wave physics phenomenon called bound states in the continuum (BIC) has been developed. The technology could revolutionize the development of surface...

Briefs : Energy
New Catalyst for Plastic Production Also Creates Hydrogen

Researchers have developed a new, low-cost catalyst for plastic production that turns a biorefinery product into a starting material for the synthesis of plastics, which could represent a sustainable alternative to widespread PET. At the same time, hydrogen can also be formed during the...

Briefs : Materials
SHEAth-based Rollable LEnticular-Shaped and Low-Stiction (SHEARLESS) Composite Booms

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed the SHEARLESS composite boom with a final cross-section shape that is lenticular and is flexible enough to...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Gated Chopper Integrator (GCI)

Microvolt-level signals require gains of at least a thousand. Offsets and noise in the amplifier chain will be amplified by the same amount, which can saturate the amplifier or swamp the signal so it is not resolvable. Other methods use chopping and/or autozero techniques to lower the offset and noise. The key...

Briefs : Energy
High-Power-Density Solid Oxide Fuel Cell

NASA's Glenn Research Center has developed a novel solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) with five times the specific power density of currently available SOFCs. This highly efficient SOFC can operate on a...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Wide-Area Chemical Sensor

The detection and localization of gas releases, such as methane from leaking natural gas pipelines or nitrogen oxides from failing electrical equipment, require high sensitivity to the target gas and insensitivity...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Device Detects Subatomic-Scale Motion

It is relatively easy to measure small movements of large objects, but is much more difficult when the moving parts are on the scale of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. The ability to accurately...