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 : Photonics/Optics
Instruments for Imaging From Far to Near

The acronym “CHAMP” (signifying “camera, hand lens, and microscope”) denotes any of several proposed optoelectronic instruments that would be capable of color imaging at working distances that could be varied continuously through a range from infinity down to several millimeters. As in any optical...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Reflectors Made From Membranes Stretched Between Beams

Lightweight cylindrical reflectors of a proposed type would be made from reflective membranes stretched between pairs of identically curved and identically oriented end rails. In each such reflector, the curvature of the two beams would define the reflector shape required for the intended...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Mid-Infrared Reflectance Imaging of Thermal-Barrier Coatings

An apparatus for mid-infrared reflectance imaging has been developed as means of inspecting for subsurface damage in thermal-barrier coatings (TBCs). The apparatus is designed, more specifically, for imaging the progression of buried delamination cracks in plasma-sprayed...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Improving the Visible and Infrared Contrast Ratio of Microshutter Arrays

Three device improvements have been developed that dramatically enhance the contrast ratio of microshutters. The goal of a microshutter is to allow as much light through as possible when the shutters are in the open configuration, and preventing any light from passing...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Improved Scanners for Microscopic Hyperspectral Imaging

Improved scanners to be incorporated into hyperspectral microscope-based imaging systems have been invented. Heretofore, in microscopic imaging, including spectral imaging, it has been customary to either move the specimen relative to the optical assembly that includes the microscope or...

Briefs : Materials
Large-Format Carbon Nanotube Sheets Fabricated With Chemical Vapor Deposition

Carbon nanotube (CNT) sheets, yarns, and their derivative products are beginning to emerge in the marketplace. A productive and scalable manufacturing method utilizes a chemical vapor deposition process for making very-large-format CNT non-woven, textile-like sheets...

Briefs : Materials
Filtering Water by Use of Ultrasonically Vibrated Nanotubes

Devices that could be characterized as acoustically driven molecular sieves have been proposed for filtering water to remove all biological contaminants and all molecules larger than water molecules. Originally intended for purifying wastewater for reuse aboard spacecraft, these devices...

Briefs : Software
Computer Code for Nanostructure Simulation

Due to their small size, nanostructures can have stress and thermal gradients that are larger than any macroscopic analogue. These gradients can lead to specific regions that are susceptible to failure via processes such as plastic deformation by dislocation emission, chemical debonding, and interfacial...

Briefs : Materials
Improvements in Production of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes

A continuing program of research and development has been directed toward improvement of a prior batch process in which single-walled carbon nanotubes are formed by catalytic disproportionation of carbon monoxide in a fluidized-bed reactor. The overall effect of the improvements has...

Briefs : Materials
Progress Toward Sequestering Carbon Nanotubes in PmPV

A report reopens the discussion of “Sequestration of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes in a Polymer” (MSC-23257), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 12 (December 2007), page 38. To recapitulate: Sequestration of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) in molecules of...

Briefs : Materials
Functionalizing CNTs for Making Epoxy/CNT Composites

Functionalization of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with linear molecular side chains of polyphenylene ether (PPE) has been shown to be effective in solubilizing the CNTs in the solvent components of solutions that are cast to make epoxy/CNT composite films. (In the absence of solubilization, the...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Parallel-Processing CMOS Circuitry for M-QAM and 8PSK TCM

There has been some additional development of parts reported in “Multi-Modulator for Bandwidth-Efficient Communication” (NPO-40807), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 32, No. 6 (June 2009), page 34. The focus was on

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Circuit for Driving Piezoelectric Transducers

The figure schematically depicts an oscillator circuit for driving a piezoelectric transducer to excite vibrations in a mechanical structure. The circuit was designed and built to satisfy application-specific requirements to drive a selected one of 16 such transducers at a regulated amplitude and...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Board Saver for Use With Developmental FPGAs

A device denoted a board saver has been developed as a means of reducing wear and tear of a printed-circuit board onto which an antifuse field-programmable gate array (FPGA) is to be eventually soldered permanently after a number of design iterations. The need for the board saver or a similar device...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Digital Synchronizer Without Metastability

A proposed design for a digital synchronizing circuit would eliminate metastability that plagues flip-flop circuits in digital input/output interfaces. This metastability is associated with sampling, by use of flip-flops, of an external signal that is asynchronous with a clock signal that drives the...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Two-Stage Variable Sample-Rate Conversion System

A two-stage variable sample-rate conversion (SRC) system has been proposed as part of a digital signal-processing system in a digital communication radio receiver that utilizes a variety of data rates. The proposed system would be used as an interface between (1) an analog-to-digital converter...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Estimating Transmitted-Signal Phase Variations for Uplink Array Antennas

A method of estimating phase drifts of microwave signals distributed to, and transmitted by, antennas in an array involves the use of the signals themselves as phase references. The method was conceived as part of the solution of the problem of maintaining precise phase...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Differential InP HEMT MMIC Amplifiers Embedded in Waveguides

Monolithic microwave integrated-circuit (MMIC) amplifiers of a type now being developed for operation at frequencies of hundreds of gigahertz contain InP high- electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs) in a differential configuration. The differential configuration makes it possible to...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Compact, Low-Overhead, MIL-STD-1553B Controller

A compact and flexible controller has been developed to provide MIL-STD-1553B Remote Terminal (RT) communications and supporting and related functions with minimal demand on the resources of the system in which the controller is to be installed. (MIL-STD-1553B is a military standard that...

Briefs : Materials
Fluoroester Co-Solvents for Low-Temperature Li⁺ Cells

Electrolytes comprising LiPF6 dissolved in alkyl carbonate/fluoroester mixtures have been found to afford improved low-temperature performance and greater high-temperature resilience in rechargeable lithium-ion electrochemical cells. These and other electrolytes comprising...

Briefs : Materials
Improved Aerogel Vacuum Thermal Insulation

An improved design concept for aerogel vacuum thermal-insulation panels calls for multiple layers of aerogel sandwiched between layers of aluminized Mylar (or equivalent) poly(ethylene terephthalate), as depicted in the figure. This concept is applicable to both the rigid (brick) form and the flexible...

Briefs : Materials
Using Volcanic Ash To Remove Dissolved Uranium and Lead

Experiments have shown that significant fractions of uranium, lead, and possibly other toxic and/or radioactive substances can be removed from an aqueous solution by simply exposing the solution, at ambient temperature, to a treatment medium that includes weathered volcanic ash from Pu’u...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
High-Efficiency Artificial Photosynthesis Using a Novel Alkaline Membrane Cell

A new cell designed to mimic the photosynthetic processes of plants to convert carbon dioxide into carbonaceous products and oxygen at high efficiency, has an improved configuration using a polymer membrane electrolyte and an alkaline medium. This increases efficiency...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Silicon Wafer-Scale Substrate for Microshutters and Detector Arrays

The silicon substrate carrier was created so that a large-area array (in this case 62,000+ elements of a microshutter array) and a variety of discrete passive and active devices could be mounted on a single board, similar to a printed circuit board. However, the density and...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Micro-Horn Arrays for Ultrasonic Impedance Matching

Thin-layered structures containing arrays of micromachined horns, denoted solid micro-horn arrays (SMIHAs), have been conceived as improved means of matching acoustic impedances between ultrasonic transducers and the media with which the transducers are required to exchange acoustic energy....

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Improved Controller for a Three-Axis Piezoelectric Stage

An improved closed-loop controller has been built for a three-axis piezoelectric positioning stage. The stage can be any of a number of commercially available or custom-made units that are used for precise three-axis positioning of optics in astronomical instruments and could be used for...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Dynamic Self-Locking of an OEO Containing a VCSEL

A method of dynamic self-locking has been demonstrated to be effective as a means of stabilizing the wavelength of light emitted by a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) that is an active element in the frequency-control loop of an optoelectronic oscillator (OEO) designed to implement...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Nonlinear Thermal Compensators for WGM Resonators

In an alternative version of a proposed bimaterial thermal compensator for a whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) optical resonator, a mechanical element having nonlinear stiffness would be added to enable stabilization of a desired resonance frequency at a suitable fixed working temperature. The...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Internal Water Vapor Photoacoustic Calibration

Water vapor absorption is ubiquitous in the infrared wavelength range where photoacoustic trace gas detectors operate. This technique allows for discontinuous wavelength tuning by temperature-jumping a laser diode from one range to another within a time span suitable for photoacoustic calibration....

Briefs : Information Technology
Rate-Compatible LDPC Codes With Linear Minimum Distance

A recently developed method of constructing protograph-based low-density parity-check (LDPC) codes provides for low iterative decoding thresholds and minimum distances proportional to block sizes, and can be used for various code rates. A code constructed by this method can have either...

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On-Demand Webinars: Manufacturing & Prototyping

CNC Machining: How to Reduce Costs and Accelerate Production

Upcoming Webinars: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Testing and Inspecting 3D-Printed Parts

Upcoming Webinars: Photonics/Optics

Optical Coating Design

Upcoming Webinars: Aerospace

Advanced Quality Planning and Production Part Approval Process...

Upcoming Webinars: Electronics & Computers

How to Avoid PCB Re-spins when IC’s Change or are Obsoleted

On-Demand Webinars: Automotive

Non-Contact Strain and Displacements Measurements in the Automotive Industry