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 : Materials
Photocatalytic/Magnetic Composite Particles

Photocatalytic/ magnetic composite particles have been invented as improved means of exploiting established methods of photocatalysis for removal of chemical and biological pollutants from air and water. The photocatalytic components of the composite particles are formulated for high levels of...

 Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Separation and Sealing of a Sample Container Using Brazing

A special double-wall container and a process for utilizing the container are being developed to enable (1) acquisition of a sample of material in a "dirty" environment that may include a biological and/or chemical hazard; (2) sealing a lid onto the inner part of the container to...

 Briefs : Medical
High-Speed Noninvasive Eye-Tracking System

The figure schematically depicts a system of electronic hardware and software that noninvasively tracks the direction of a person’s gaze in real time. Like prior commercial noninvasive eye-tracking systems, this system is based on (1) illumination of an eye by a low-power infrared light-emitting diode...

 Briefs : Medical
Detergent-Specific Membrane Protein Crystallization Screens

A suite of reagents has been developed for three-dimensional crystallization of integral membranes present in solution as protein-detergent complexes (PDCs). The compositions of these reagents have been determined in part by proximity to the phase boundaries (lower consolute boundaries)...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
A New Approach to Railgun Operation Requires Analysis of Electromagnetic Fields

Railguns, which propel a projectile using electromagnetic forces instead of chemical explosions, promise to revolutionize projectile launchers. Such guns have been built and operated successfully on a test basis, but several problems are holding them back from usage...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Plasmonic Antenna Coupling for QWIPs

In a proposed scheme for coupling light into a quantum-well infrared photodetector (QWIP), an antenna or an array of antennas made of a suitable metal would be fabricated on the face of what would otherwise be a standard QWIP (see figure). This or any such coupling scheme is required to effect polarization...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Evaporation-Cooled Protective Suits for Firefighters

Suits cooled by evaporation of water have been proposed as improved means of temporary protection against high temperatures near fires. When air temperature exceeds 600 °F (316 °C) or in the presence of radiative heating from nearby sources at temperatures of 1,200 °F (649 °C)...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Electronic Tongue Containing Redox and Conductivity Sensors

Electronic tongue 2 (E-tongue 2) represents the second generation of the apparatus described in "Electronic Tongue for Quantitation of Contaminants in Water" (NPO-30601), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 2 (February 2004), page 31. To recapitulate: The previously reported apparatus, now...

 Briefs : Information Technology
Improved Heat-Stress Algorithm

NASA Dryden presents an improved and automated site-specific algorithm for heat-stress approximation using standard atmospheric measurements routinely obtained from the Edwards Air Force Base weather detachment. Heat stress, which is the net heat load a worker may be exposed to, is officially measured using a...

 Briefs : Information Technology
A Method of Partly Automated Testing of Software

A method of automated testing of software has been developed that provides an alternative to the conventional mostly manual approach for software testing. The method combines (1) automated generation of test cases on the basis of systematic exploration of the input domain of the software to be...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Rover Wheel-Actuated Tool

A report describes an interface for utilizing some of the mobility features of a mobile robot for general-purpose manipulation of tools and other objects. The robot in question, now undergoing conceptual development for use on the Moon, is the All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) rover, which is...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Second-Generation Electronic Nose

A report discusses the second generation of the JPL Electronic Nose (ENose), an array of 32 semi-specific chemical sensors used as an event monitor to identify and quantify contaminants released into breathing air by leaks or spills. It is designed to monitor the environment for changes in air quality, and is...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Automated Aerial Refueling Hitches a Ride On AFF

The recent introduction of uninhabited aerial vehicles [UAVs (basically, remotely piloted or autonomous aircraft)] has spawned new developments in autonomous operation and posed new challenges. Automated aerial refueling (AAR) is a capability that will enable UAVs to travel greater distances and...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Cobra Probes Containing Replaceable Thermocouples

A modification of the basic design of cobra probes provides for relatively easy replacement of broken thermocouples. [Cobra probes are standard tube-type pressure probes that may also contain thermocouples and that are routinely used in wind tunnels and aeronautical hardware. They are so named...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Radar Interferometer for Topographic Mapping of Glaciers and Ice Sheets

A report discusses Ka-band (35-GHz) radar for mapping the surface topography of glaciers and ice sheets at high spatial resolution and high vertical accuracy, independent of cloud cover, with a swath-width of 70 km. The system is a single- pass, single-platform...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Miniature Intelligent Sensor Module

An electronic unit denoted the Miniature Intelligent Sensor Module performs sensor signal conditioning functions and local processing of sensor data. The unit includes four channels of analog input/output circuitry, a processor, volatile and nonvolatile memory, and two Ethernet communication ports, all housed...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
“Smart” Sensor Module

An assembly that contains a sensor, sensor signal conditioning circuitry, a sensor-readout analog-to-digital converter (ADC), data-storage circuitry, and a microprocessor that runs special-purpose software and communicates with one or more external computer(s) has been developed as a prototype of "smart" sensor modules...

 Briefs : Physical Sciences
Portable Apparatus for Electrochemical Sensing of Ethylene

A small, lightweight, portable apparatus based on an electrochemical sensing principle has been developed for monitoring low concentrations of ethylene in air. Ethylene has long been known to be produced by plants and to stimulate the growth and other aspects of the development of plants...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Flight Qualified Micro Sun Sensor

A prototype small, lightweight micro Sun sensor (MSS) has been flight qualified as part of the attitude- determination system of a spacecraft or for Mars surface operations. The MSS has previously been reported at a very early stage of development in NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 1 (January 2004).

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Increasing Linear Dynamic Range of a CMOS Image Sensor

A generic design and a corresponding operating sequence have been developed for increasing the linear-response dynamic range of a complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor. The design provides for linear calibrated dual-gain pixels that operate at high gain at a low signal...

 Briefs : Materials
Norbornene-Based Polymer Electrolytes for Lithium Cells

Norbornene-based polymers have shown promise as solid electrolytes for lithium-based rechargeable electrochemical cells. These polymers are characterized as single-ion conductors.

 Briefs : Materials
Making Single-Source Precursors of Ternary Semiconductors

&A synthesis route has been developed for the commercial manufacture of single- source precursors of chalcopyrite semiconductor absorber layers of thin-film solar photovoltaic cells. The semiconductors in question are denoted by the general formula...

 Briefs : Materials
Water-Free Proton-Conducting Membranes for Fuel Cells

Poly-4 -vinylpyridinebisulfate (P4VPBS) is a polymeric salt that has shown promise as a water-free proton-conducting material (solid electrolyte) suitable for use in membrane/electrode assemblies in fuel cells. Heretofore, proton-conducting membranes in fuel cells have been made from...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Mo/Ti Diffusion Bonding for Making Thermoelectric Devices

An all-solid-state diffusion bonding process that exploits the eutectoid reaction between molybdenum and titanium has been developed for use in fabricating thermoelectric devices based on skutterudite compounds. In essence, the process is one of heating a flat piece of pure titanium in...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Photodetectors on Coronagraph Mask for Pointing Control

It has been proposed to install a symmetrical array of photodetectors about the center of the mask of a coronagraph of the type used to search for planets orbiting remote stars. The purpose of this installation is to utilize the light from a star under observation as a guide in pointing the...

 Briefs : Electronics & Computers
High-Energy-Density, Low-Temperature Li/CFₓ Primary Cells

High-energy-density primary (nonrechargeable) electrochemical cells capable of relatively high discharge currents at temperatures as low as –40 °C have been developed through modification of the chemistry of commercial Li/CFx cells and batteries. The commercial...

 Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
G⁴-FETs as Universal and Programmable Logic Gates

An analysis of a patented generic silicon-on-insulator (SOI) electronic device called a G4-FET has revealed that the device could be designed to function as a universal and programmable logic gate. The universality and programmability could be exploited to design logic circuits...

 Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Simulation of Heat Generation in Analyzing Thermoelastic Instability in Disk Brakes

During a vehicle's braking action, a wheel's kinetic energy is transformed into heat, which doesn't dissipate fast enough into the air stream from the brake to the brake disk. Thus, one of a disk brake's material properties — thermal conductivity —...

 Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Fabrication of Buried Nanochannels From Nanowire Patterns

A method of fabricating channels having widths of tens of nanometers in silicon substrates and burying the channels under overlying layers of dielectric materials has been demonstrated. With further refinement, the method might be useful for fabricating nanochannels for manipulation and...

 Briefs : Medical
Infrared Imaging System for Studying Brain Function

A proposed special-purpose infrared imaging system would be a compact, portable, less-expensive alternative to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) systems heretofore used to study brain function. Whereas a typical fMRI system fills a large room, and must be magnetically isolated, this...

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