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 : Software
Algorithm Boosts Speed of 3D Printers

A major drawback to 3D printing is the slow pace of the process, which ensures details are reproduced accurately. The pace of 3D printing is one of the factors that has prevented the technology from finding a broader audience. A new algorithm was developed that boosts the speed at which the printers...

Briefs : Energy
Wearable Solar Thermoelectric Generator

Energy harvesting is a diverse field encompassing many technologies that involve a process that captures small amounts of energy that would otherwise be lost as heat, light, sound, vibration, or...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Advanced Carbon Aerogels for Energy Applications

Carbon aerogels (CAs) are nano-porous carbons comprising a particularly significant class of carbon nano-materials for a variety of sustainable energy applications. Carbon aerogels are...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Composite Materials Could Improve Respirator Filters

Current gas mask filters counter current threats, but there are large gaps in knowledge about how they do so at the molecular level. Many of the filters were developed to handle a wide...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Ad-Hoc Cache Hierarchies Increase Processing Speed and Reduce Energy Consumption

The efficiency of computer chips has increased by using caches — small, local memory banks that store frequently used data and cut down on time- and...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Additive Manufacturing Unique Serialization

Current methods of identifying a unique part involve adding a unique serial number to the part. There are many reasons that manufactured parts receive a serial number. They enable traceability of a part throughout its lifecycle, and ensure the part is not a counterfeit; however, labels and stamped...

Briefs : Materials
Interlaminar Strengthening Concepts for Polymer Matrix Composites

During the last few decades, one of the most prevalent issues associated with the performance of aerospace composite materials has revolved around low interlaminar mechanical properties. The innovations described in this work outline a number of new and improved techniques for...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
External Diagnostic Method to Detect Electrical Charging in Complex Ion Trapping Systems

Electron-ionized atom trapping technology is widely used in mass spectrometry and atomic clocks. The complexity of the trapping configuration operating in an ultra-high vacuum system is driven by demands for ultimate sensitivity, performance, and fundamental...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Inexpensive Method for Manufacturing Supercapacitor Electrodes

Supercapacitors can store and deliver energy faster than conventional batteries. But to realize advanced applications, supercapacitors need better electrodes, which connect the...

Briefs : Aerospace
Method of Fabricating Ultra-Short-Gate-Length Thin-Film Transistors Using Optical Lithography

The speed of thin-film transistors (TFTs) relates directly to their gate length, which must be kept as short as possible to lower electron transport time between electrodes, and improve its high-frequency response characteristics. Since current density...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
EOS MLS Level 2 Data Processing Software, Version 4

This software reads MLS Level 1 products — the Earth Observing System (EOS) Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) calibrated measurements of microwave radiance products and operational meteorological data — and produces a set of estimates of atmospheric temperature and composition. The software...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
SolidSense: Gas Analyzer on a Chip

The SolidSense sensor platform measures all EPA-regulated gas emissions (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons), in addition to ammonia, with high accuracy and sensitivity. The chip-scale gas...

Briefs : Materials
Aluminum Electroplating Using Bromide Salts

Corrosion of structural materials is a serious problem for industrial and civil infrastructure worldwide, costing billions of dollars, and hampering gross domestic product. Corrosion also presents...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
The NiceC Programming Language

NiceC is an improved version of ANSI C. It attempts to clean up C as much as possible using syntax translation. A type checker for NiceC is under development. The NiceC programming language is translated to, and fully compatible with, ordinary C. Thus it can be used as a drop-in replacement for C. The main benefits...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
One-Step 3D Printing of Catalysts

While 3D printing has found applications in many areas, its use as a way to control chemical reactions, or catalysis, is relatively new. Current production of 3D catalysts typically involves various methods...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Bend- and Twist-Sensing Optical Fiber

A method was developed for concurrently measuring bending and twisting along an optical fiber using only the properties of light guided within the fiber. The method exploits polarization-dependent...

Briefs : Aerospace
Development of Sodium Lidar for Spaceborne Missions

The metal layers at mesospheric altitudes are excellent tracers of neutral atmosphere dynamics, and have been used since the 1960s to study the chemistry and dynamics of the mesosphere. Ablation from meteors is believed to be the chief source of metals such as Na, Mg, K, Fe, and Ca in the...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
APT Web Tool

Project planning data collected by the Analysis, Planning, and Tracking (APT) system during the planning cycle previously was available to users via an email request to a data administrator who would pull data from the database, format as requested, and respond via email. Access to the data was limited by the availability of the...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Aerosol-to-Liquid Particle Extraction System (ALPES)

Agents that could be used in chemical and biological warfare tend to disperse widely in the air when released. Quickly collecting a concentrated sample of these agents is critical to detecting them before they reach harmful dose levels in the air. Also, methods of detection such as by...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Compact Active Vibration Control System

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a point sensor and piezoelectric actuator system to actively sense and reduce vibrations in flexible structures. The system uses a directional piezoelectric...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Conductive, High-Toughness Oxides Deposited by Plasma Spray-Physical Vapor Deposition (PS-PVD)

Oxide coatings deposited in Glenn Research Center's Plasma Spray-Physical Vapor Deposition (PS-PVD) facility can be processed to be mechanically tough (erosion-resistant) and electrically conductive at room temperature. The electrically conductive...

Briefs : Software
Echo Analysis Environment for Analyzing Large, Complex Datasets

Analyzing data piecemeal is usually uninformative. Analysts need tools to evaluate multiple pieces of data simultaneously that are related by a common thread. Identifying that...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Sensor Detects Nuclear Weapon Solvent

A new sensor picks up signatures of tributyl phosphate, a solvent used to enrich uranium, including for use in a nuclear weapon. Enzymes can detect tributyl phosphate signatures, but the lifespan of the enzymes is too short to make them practical for sensors.

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Depth Sensors for Time-of-Flight Imaging

Time of flight is an approach that gauges distance by measuring the time it takes light projected into a scene to bounce back to a sensor. In time-of-flight imaging, a short burst of light is fired...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Optical Method for Detecting Displacements and Strains at Ultra-High Temperatures During Thermo-Mechanical Testing

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed an optical method for detecting displacements and strains at ultra-high temperatures during thermo-mechanical testing. This innovation will provide displacement and strain measurements in...

Briefs : Energy
Superalloy Surface Treatment for Improved Performance of Power Turbines

To produce power more efficiently and cleanly, the next generation of power turbines will have to operate at extreme temperatures and pressures. Currently, single-crystal, nickel-based superalloys are used in such extreme environments. MCrAlY coatings (where M = Co, Ni, or...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Solid-State Humidity Sensing Element

Researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center have developed a solid-state humidity sensing element that offers ultra-high sensitivity across a wide range of humidity levels. The sensing element is based on a novel ceramic dielectric material that exhibits large changes in capacitance as a function of...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Radar Scanner Tests Wind Turbine Blades for Defects

Wind power has become an indispensable part of an environmentally friendly power supply. Therefore, it is important for this growth market that wind turbines become more efficient, more...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
Shoebox-Sized Chemical Detector

A chemical sensor prototype was developed that can detect single-fingerprint quantities of substances from a distance of more than 100 feet away, and could be shrunk to the size of a shoebox. The portable...

Briefs : Software
MorphoHawk Mathematic Morphology Software for Image and Data Analysis

Computers and automated systems have accelerated productivity and improved quality and reliability for nearly everything, and are destined to take on increasing roles as time moves on. One major limiting factor for automated systems is their inability to categorize and...

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