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 : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Fabricating Copper Nanotubes by Electrodeposition

Copper tubes having diameters between about 100 and about 200 nm have been fabricated by electrodeposition of copper into the pores of alumina nanopore membranes. Copper nanotubes are under consideration as alternatives to copper nanorods and nanowires for applications involving thermal and/or...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Improved Fabrication of Ceramic Matrix Composite/Foam Core Integrated Structures

The use of hybridized carbon/silicon carbide (C/SiC) fabric to reinforce ceramic matrix composite face sheets and the integration of such face sheets with a foam core creates a sandwich structure capable of withstanding high-heat-flux environments (150...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Reducing Aerodynamic Drag on Empty Open Cargo Vehicles

Some simple structural modifications have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing aerodynamic drag on vehicles that have empty open cargo bays. The modifications were originally intended to be made in railroad coal cars because the amounts of coal and the distances over which they are...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Rotary Percussive Auto-Gopher for Deep Drilling and Sampling

The term “rotary percussive autogopher” denotes a proposed addition to a family of apparatuses, based on ultrasonic/sonic drill corers (USDCs), that have been described in numerous previous NASA Tech Briefs articles. These apparatuses have been designed, variously, for boring into,...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Thermostatic Valves Containing Silicone-Oil Actuators

Flow-splitting and flow-mixing thermally actuated spool valves have been developed for controlling flows of a heat-transfer fluid in a temperature-regulation system aboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover. Valves like these could also be useful in terrestrial temperature-regulation...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
More About Reconfigurable Exploratory Robotic Vehicles

Modular exploratory robotic vehicles that will be able to reconfigure themselves in the field are undergoing development. These vehicles at the initial concept stage were described in “Reconfigurable Exploratory Robotic Vehicles” (NPO-20944), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 7 (July 2001),...

Briefs : Materials
Cyclic Oxidation Behavior of CuCrAl Cold-Sprayed Coatings for Reusable Launch Vehicles

The next generation of reusable launch vehicles is likely to use GRCop-84 [Cu-8(at.%)Cr-4%Nb] copper alloy combustion liners. The application of protective coatings on GRCop-84 liners can minimize or eliminate many of the environmental problems experienced by...

Briefs : Materials
Ceramic Fiber Structures for Cryogenic Load-Bearing Applications

This invention is intended for use as a load-bearing device under cryogenic temperatures and/or abrasive conditions (i.e., during missions to the Moon). The innovation consists of small-diameter, ceramic fibers that are woven or braided into devices like ropes, belts, tracks, or...

Briefs : Materials
Elastomer Reinforced With Carbon Nanotubes

Elastomers are reinforced with functionalized, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) giving them high- breaking strain levels and low densities. Cross-linked elastomers are prepared using amine-terminated, poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS), with an average molecular weight of 5,000 daltons, and a...

Briefs : Materials
Improving Heat Flux Performance of Flat Surface in Spray-Cooling Systems

A method has been developed for improving heat flux performance relative to flat surfaces in spray-cooling systems. Similar enhancement techniques have been used for convective heat transfer, but, to the best knowledge at the time of this reporting, never spray cooling of...

Briefs : Materials
Treating Fibrous Insulation To Reduce Thermal Conductivity

A chemical treatment reduces the convective and radiative contributions to the effective thermal conductivity of porous fibrous thermal-insulation tile. The net effect of the treatment is to coat the surfaces of fibers with a mixture of transition-metal oxides (TMOs) without filling the...

Briefs : Materials
Silica-Aerogel Composites Opacified With La0.7Sr0.3MnO3

As part of an effort to develop improved lightweight thermal-insulation tiles to withstand temperatures up to 1,000 °C, silica aerogel/fused-quartz- fiber composite materials containing La0.7Sr0.3MnO3 particles as opacifiers have been investigated as...

Briefs : Materials
Biologically Inspired Purification and Dispersion of SWCNTs

A biologically inspired method has been developed for (1) separating single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) from other materials (principally, amorphous carbon and metal catalysts) in raw production batches and (2) dispersing the SWCNTs as individual particles (in contradistinction to...

Briefs : Materials
Quantifying Airborne Hydrogen in Nearly Real Time

An indirect method of measuring small concentrations of hydrogen gas in air in nearly real time has been devised to circumvent the difficulty of performing such measurements directly. In this method, a sample of air suspected of containing hydrogen is first enclosed in a suitable container, and...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
A Technique for Adjusting Eigenfrequencies of WGM Resonators

A simple technique has been devised for making small, permanent changes in the eigenfrequencies (resonance frequencies) of whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) dielectric optical resonators that have high values of the resonance quality factor (Q). The essence of the technique is to coat the...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Low-Pressure, Field-Ionizing Mass Spectrometer

A small mass spectrometer utilizing a miniature field ionization source is now undergoing development. It is designed for use in a variety of applications in which there are requirements for a lightweight, low-power-consumption instrument that can analyze the masses of a wide variety of molecules...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Modifying Operating Cycles To Increase Stability in a LITS

The short-term instability in the frequency of a linear-ion-trap frequency standard (LITS) can be reduced by modifying two cycles involved in its operation: (1) the bimodal (bright/dim) cycle of a plasma discharge lamp used for state preparation and detection and (2) a...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Chamber for Simulating Martian and Terrestrial Environments

An apparatus for simulating the environment at the surface of Mars has been developed. Within the apparatus, the pressure, gas composition, and temperature of the atmosphere; the incident solar visible and ultraviolet (UV) light; and the attenuation of the light by dust in the...

Briefs : Information Technology
Algorithm for Detecting a Bright Spot in an Image

An algorithm processes the pixel intensities of a digitized image to detect and locate a circular bright spot, the approximate size of which is known in advance. The algorithm is used to find images of the Sun in cameras aboard the Mars Exploration Rovers. (The images are used in estimating...

Briefs : Information Technology
Extreme Programming: Maestro Style

“Extreme Programming: Maestro Style” is the name of a computer-programming methodology that has evolved as a custom version of a methodology, called “extreme programming” that has been practiced in the software industry since the late 1990s. The name of this version reflects its origin in the work of...

Briefs : Information Technology
Adaptive Behavior for Mobile Robots

The term “System for Mobility and Access to Rough Terrain” (SMART) denotes a theoretical framework, a control architecture, and an algorithm that implements the framework and architecture, for enabling a land-mobile robot to adapt to changing conditions. SMART is intended to enable the robot to recognize...

Briefs : Information Technology
Protocol for Communication Networking for Formation Flying

An application-layer protocol and a network architecture have been proposed for data communications among multiple autonomous spacecraft that are required to fly in a precise formation in order to perform scientific observations. The protocol could also be applied to other autonomous...

Briefs : Information Technology
Planning Complex Sequences Using Compressed Representations

A method that notably includes the use of compressed representations interleaved with non-compressed (time-line) representations of a general scheduling problem has been conceived as a means of increasing, by orders of magnitude, the speeds of computations needed for scheduling complex...

Briefs : Information Technology
Self-Supervised Learning of Terrain Traversability From Proprioceptive Sensors

Robust and reliable autonomous navigation in unstructured, off-road terrain is a critical element in making unmanned ground vehicles a reality. Existing approaches tend to rely on evaluating the traversability of terrain based on fixed parameters obtained via testing...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Hail Monitor Sensor

Figure 1 shows damage to the space shuttle’s external tank (ET) that was likely caused by a pea-sized hailstone. Because of the potential damage to the ET while exposed to the weather, it is important to remotely monitor the hail fall in the vicinity of the shuttle pad. If hail of sufficient size and quantity is detected by...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Dual Cryogenic Capacitive Density Sensor

A dual cryogenic capacitive density sensor has been developed. The device contains capacitive sensors that monitor two-phase cryogenic flow density to within ±1% accuracy, which, if temperature were known, could be used to determine the ratio of liquid to gas in the line. Two of these density sensors,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Improved Blackbody Temperature Sensors for a Vacuum Furnace

Some improvements have been made in the design and fabrication of blackbody sensors (BBSs) used to measure the temperature of a heater core in a vacuum furnace. Each BBS consists of a ring of thermally conductive, high-melting-temperature material with two tantalum-sheathed...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Miniature Six-Axis Load Sensor for Robotic Fingertip

A miniature load sensor has been developed as a prototype of tactile sensors that could fit within fingertips of anthropomorphic robot hands. The sensor includes a force-and-torque transducer in the form of a spring instrumented with at least six semiconductor strain gauges. The strain-gauge...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Wide-Range Temperature Sensors With High-Level Pulse Train Output

Two types of temperature sensors have been developed for wide-range temperature applications. The two sensors measure temperature in the range of –190 to +200 °C and utilize a thin-film platinum RTD (resistance temperature detector) as the temperature-sensing element. Other...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Wrap-Around Out-the-Window Sensor Fusion System

The Advanced Cockpit Evaluation System (ACES) includes communication, computing, and display subsystems, mounted in a van, that synthesize out-the-window views to approximate the views of the outside world as it would be seen from the cockpit of a crewed spacecraft, aircraft, or remote control of a...