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
High-Power Thermoelectric Generator

Objects in our daily lives, such as speakers, refrigerators, and even cars, are becoming “smarter” day by day as they connect to the Internet and exchange data, creating the Internet of Things (IoT)....

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
MEMS Switch Extends Life of Cellphones

A new type of microelectromechanical system (MEMS) was developed that uses electrostatic levitation to provide a more robust system. All cellphones use MEMS switches for wireless communication, but traditionally there are just two electrodes. The switches open and close numerous times during just one hour,...

Briefs : Aerospace
Variable-Depth, Multilayer Liner for Aircraft Noise Reduction

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a new approach for designing aircraft liner cores for noise reduction. The cores are comprised of multiple honeycomb-shaped chambers,...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
Efficient Security for Cloud-Based Machine Learning

Outsourcing machine learning is a rising trend in industry. Major tech firms have launched cloud platforms that conduct computation-heavy tasks, such as running data through a convolutional...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Self-Stabilizing, Distributed, Symmetric, Fault-Tolerant Synchronization

Distributed systems have become an integral part of safety-critical computing applications, necessitating system designs that incorporate complex fault-tolerant resource management functions to provide globally coordinated operations with ultra-reliability. As a result,...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
System Selectively Sequesters Toxins from Water

Traditional methods, such as reverse osmosis, that remove contaminants from water are expensive and energy-intensive. Researchers have developed technology to remove contaminants from water,...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Delamination and Porosity in Composites and Adhesives Using Solid and Particulate Powdered Aerogel

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a method that introduces solids and particulates — specifically aerogels — into composites or...

Briefs : Aerospace
Real-Time, Fuel-Optimal, Powered Descent Guidance Using Interpolated Time-of-Flight and Propellant Mass

Soft landing using rockets requires a trajectory to be planned for the lander from rocket ignition — typically several kilometers in altitude and moving at up to 200 m/s — to the point near the surface with near-zero velocity. The exact...

Briefs : Software
Generative Design Enhances Autonomous Vehicle Development

The technological ramp to fully autonomous vehicles presents significant challenges for companies developing autonomous vehicle programs. Advanced sensor technology, high-speed and...

Briefs : Medical
“Metallic Wood” Has the Strength of Titanium and the 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 : Power
Interoperable Intelligent Controllers for Process Management and Control Networks

NASA Johnson Space Center developed reprogrammable and interchangeable electronic controllers that can attach to a system or subsystem wirelessly or through plug-and-play capability. Originally designed to work with rocket engines, this technology can control...

Briefs : Propulsion
Small-Body Dynamics Toolkit Version 5.0

The Small-Body Dynamics Toolkit (SBDT) v5.0 is a collection of primitive-body-specific trajectory design and analysis tools written in MATLAB®. The SBDT gives the user the capabilities to propagate, analyze, and visualize spacecraft trajectories and the dynamical environment near realistic asteroid,...

Briefs : Software
Sublimable Propellant Source for Iodine-Fed Ion Propulsion System

NASA Marshall has developed a system for generating iodine vapor from solid iodine for use as a propellant in a Hall or ion thruster propulsion system. Xenon has generally been the preferred propellant for these spacecraft ion propulsion systems but more recently, iodine-based...

Briefs : Energy
Fuel Cell/Fuel Cell Hybrid System

Fuel cells can deliver clean, reliable, and uninterrupted power nearly 100 percent of the time. Fuel cells offer the advantage of efficiency by converting chemical energy directly to electricity. They have no moving parts, thereby eliminating failures associated with pumps, blowers, heat exchangers, and other...

Briefs : Materials
Composite Advances Lignin as Renewable 3D Printing Material

Lignin is the material left over from the processing of biomass. It gives plants rigidity and also makes biomass resistant to being broken down into useful products. Researchers combined a melt-stable hardwood lignin with conventional plastic, a low-melting nylon, and carbon fiber to...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Nanoscale Pillars Act as Memory Foam

A customizable nanomaterial was developed that combines metallic strength with a foam-like ability to compress and spring back. The material can store and release mechanical energy on the nanoscale, and...

Briefs : Transportation
Effects of Reynolds and Mach Numbers in Large Eddy Simulation of Supersonic Round Jets

Rockets/landers arrive on the Moon with supersonic speed and impact lunar regolith. There is no reliable software to computationally simulate in an effective way the supersonic plumes escaping from these rockets/devices. A Large Eddy Simulation (LES) model and...

Briefs : Aerospace
Electronics Withstand Extreme Heat

Most electronics only function within a certain temperature range but blending two organic materials together creates electronics that withstand extreme heat. The new plastic material could reliably conduct...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Optimal Computational Vision Pipeline (OCVP)

Optimal Computational Vision Pipeline (OCVP) software uses a novel algorithm that allows overlapping point clouds obtained from sensors with displaced position and orientation to be fused together in a common coordinate system with a rigorously linear solution for position and orientation parameters;...

Briefs : Motion Control
Computer-Controlled Exercise Equipment

While a wide variety of computer-controlled exercise machines for training and rehabilitation exist — some of which can be automatically adjusted to vary resistance or incline — such systems provide for preprogrammed changes in load or resistance. What is needed is a system that overcomes the...

INSIDER : Software
Speedy Motor Modeling

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have created open source software that scales up analysis of motor designs to run on the fastest computers available.

INSIDER : Motion Control
Walking Robot Moves Without GPS

Ants are able to use polarized light and ultraviolet radiation to locate themselves in space. AntBot mimics this ability to explore its environment randomly and go home automatically, without GPS or...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
Artificial Intelligence Device Identifies Objects at the Speed of Light

Numerous devices in everyday life use computerized cameras to identify objects — think of automated teller machines that can “read” handwritten dollar amounts when...

Briefs : Aerospace
CHEBY Toolkit for Processing and Editing Chebyshev Files

This software fits trajectory ephemerides and thrust profiles with a Chebyshev polynomial representation, and stores this fit in data files suitable for upload to a spacecraft. In addition, a number of utility modules are provided to assist with inspection and diagnosis of issues with data...

Briefs : Aerospace
Material Removes Ice Buildup Without Power or Chemicals

From airplane wings, to overhead power lines, to the giant blades of wind turbines, a buildup of ice can cause problems ranging from impaired performance all the way to catastrophic...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Interactive Software Simplifies Complex Mold Design

Molding is a popular method for the mass production of objects. Essentially, two (or more) mold pieces are fit together, leaving the shape of the desired object as a hole. During...

Briefs : Lighting
Single-Crystal SiGe/Sapphire Epitaxy

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a new low-temperature method of SiGe/sapphire growth that produces the same single-crystal films with much less thermal loading effort to the substrate. This eliminates the time-consuming and costly high heating, long thermal soak times, and interfacial Si layer....

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Micro-Mirror Optical Tracking and Ranging System

An innovative optical sensing and tracking system was designed to detect, track, and determine object distance and direction in a wide, full, solid angle (160 × 160°) with an extremely high...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Method Increases Adhesive Properties of Silicone

Geckos, spiders, and beetles have special adhesive elements on their feet, enabling them to easily run along ceilings or walls. The science of bionics tries to imitate and control such...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
Biometric-Based User Authentication

Rapid adoption of mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablet computers has increased the range of applications and data on mobile devices. The use of these devices to communicate sensitive or confidential data requires, among other things, strong front-end user authentication procedures and/or protocols...

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