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 : Electronics & Computers
Architecture of an Autonomous Radio Receiver

A program to develop an autonomous radio receiver compatible with a variety of digital communication schemes is underway. The proposed receiver, to be implemented largely in software, would configure itself to receive an incoming signal without much a priori knowledge of defining characteristics of...

Briefs : Software
Resource Selection and Ranking

Surfer is an extensible framework for selecting and ranking grid resources. A resource is defined as anything that needs selecting such as compute resources, storage resources, and data resources. The user specifies the set of resource types desired, the constraints that must hold over all the resources, and the...

Briefs : Software
Accident/Mishap Investigation System

InvestigationOrganizer (IO) is a Webbased collaborative information system that integrates the generic functionality of a database, a document repository, a semantic hypermedia browser, and a rulebased inference system with specialized modeling and visualization functionality to support accident/mishap...

Briefs : Medical
Simplified Identification of mRNA or DNA in Whole Cells

A recently invented method of detecting a selected messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence offers two important advantages over prior such methods: it is simpler and can be implemented by means of compact equipment. The simplification and miniaturization...

Briefs : Medical
Printed Multi-Turn Loop Antennas for RF Biotelemetry

Printed multi-turn loop antennas have been designed for contactless powering of, and reception of radio signals transmitted by, surgically implantable biotelemetric sensor units operating at frequencies in the vicinity of 300 MHz. In the original intended application of these antennas, the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Retaining Rings for Industrial Fastening Applications

A discussion of retaining rings inevitably must begin with a debunking of myths; namely, that one style of retaining ring will function better than all other types in all instances. No...

Briefs : Materials
Glass/BNNT Composite for Sealing Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

A material consisting of a barium calcium aluminosilicate glass reinforced with 4 weight percent of boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) has shown promise for use as a sealant in planar solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). The composition of the glass in question in mole percentages is 35BaO + 15CaO...

Briefs : Materials
Improved Single-Source Precursors for Solar-Cell Absorbers

Improved single-source precursor compounds have been invented for use in spray chemical vapor deposition (spray CVD) of chalcopyrite semiconductor absorber layers of thin-film solar photovoltaic cells. The semiconductors in question are denoted by the general formula...

Briefs : Materials
Spray CVD for Making Solar-Cell Absorber Layers

Spray chemical vapor deposition (spray CVD) processes of a special type have been investigated for use in making CuInS2 absorber layers of thin-film solar photovoltaic cells from either of two subclasses of precursor compounds:

[(PBu3)...

Briefs : Materials
Making Ternary Quantum Dots From Single-Source Precursors

A process has been devised for making ternary (specifically, CuInS2) nanocrystals for use as quantum dots (QDs) in a contemplated next generation of highefficiency solar photovoltaic cells. The process parameters can be chosen to tailor the sizes (and, thus, the absorption and...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
A Method of Assembling Compact Coherent Fiber-Optic Bundles

A method of assembling coherent fiber-optic bundles in which all the fibers are packed together as closely as possible is undergoing development. The method is based straightforwardly on the established concept of hexagonal close packing; hence, the development efforts are focused on...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Manufacturing Diamond Under Very High Pressure

A process for manufacturing bulk diamond has been made practical by the invention of the High Pressure and Temperature Apparatus capable of applying the combination of very high temperature and high pressure needed to melt carbon in a sufficiently large volume. The rate of growth achievable in this...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Compact Fuel-Cell System Would Consume Neat Methanol

In a proposed direct methanol fuelcell electric- power-generating system, the fuel cells would consume neat methanol, in contradistinction to the dilute aqueous methanol solutions consumed in prior direct methanol fuel-cell systems. The design concept of the proposed fuel-cell system takes...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Ring-Resonator/Sol-Gel Interferometric Immunosensor

A proposed biosensing system would be based on a combination of (1) a sensing volume containing antibodies immobilized in a sol-gel matrix and (2) an optical interferometer having a ring resonator configuration. The antibodies would be specific to an antigen species that one seeks to detect....

Briefs : Information Technology
Algorithm Would Enable Robots to Solve Problems Creatively

A control architecture and algorithms to implement the architecture have been conceived to enable a robot to learn from its experiences and to combine knowledge gained from prior experiences in such a way as to be able to solve new problems. The architecture is an abstraction of an...

Briefs : Information Technology
Hypothetical Scenario Generator for Fault-Tolerant Diagnosis

The Hypothetical Scenario Generator for Fault-tolerant Diagnostics (HSG) is an algorithm being developed in conjunction with other components of artificial- intelligence systems for automated diagnosis and prognosis of faults in spacecraft, aircraft, and other complex engineering...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Scanning Terahertz Heterodyne Imaging Systems

Scanning terahertz heterodyne imaging systems are now at an early stage of development. They were recently conceived as means of probing biological specimens and samples of materials to obtain information complementary to that obtainable from imaging systems that utilize other parts of the...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Master Clock and Time-Signal-Distribution System

A timing system comprising an electronic master clock and a subsystem for distributing time signals from the master clock to end users is undergoing development to satisfy anticipated timing requirements of NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) for the next 20 to 30 years. The developmental system is...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Synchronous Phase-Resolving Flash Range Imaging

The figure is a simplified diagram of an apparatus, now undergoing development, for range imaging based on measurement of the round-trip phase delay of a pulsed laser beam. Variants of this apparatus could be used to provide range information needed for navigation of autonomous robotic ground...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Bar-Code System for a Microbiological Laboratory

A bar-code system (see figure) has been assembled for a microbiological laboratory that must examine a large number of samples. The system includes a commercial bar-code reader, computer hardware and software components, plus custom-designed database software. The software generates a...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Integrated Radial Probe Transition From MMIC to Waveguide

A radial probe transition between a monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) and a waveguide has been designed for operation at frequency of 340 GHz and to be fabricated as part of a monolithic unit that includes the MMIC. Integrated radial probe transitions like this one are...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
MMIC Amplifier Produces Gain of 10 dB at 235 GHz

The first solid-state amplifier capable of producing gain at a frequency >215 GHz has been demonstrated. This amplifier is an intermediate product of a continuing effort to develop amplifiers having the frequency and gain characteristics needed for a forthcoming generation of remote-sensing...

Briefs : Software
Better Finite-Element Analysis of Composite Shell Structures

A computer program implements a finite-element-based method of predicting the deformations of thin aerospace structures made of isotropic materials or anisotropic fiber-reinforced composite materials. The technique and corresponding software are applicable to thin shell structures in...

Briefs : Software
Computing Spacecraft-Pointing Vectors for Limb Tracking

LMBTRK is a computer program that is used together with two software libraries known as ERHAND and HYBRRD to generate spacecraft-pointing vectors for limb-tracking maneuvers needed for experiments on propagation of radio signals through planetary atmospheres. LMBTRK determines, as a...

Briefs : Software
Enhanced Master Controller Unit Tester

The Enhanced Master Controller Unit Tester (EMUT) software is a tool for development and testing of software for a master controller (MC) flight computer. The primary function of the EMUT software is to simulate interfaces between the MC computer and external analog and digital circuitry (including other...

Briefs : Software
Rover Graphical Simulator

Rover Graphical Simulator (RGS) is a package of software that generates images of the motion of a wheeled robotic exploratory vehicle (rover) across terrain that includes obstacles and regions of varying traversability. The simulated rover moves autonomously, utilizing reasoning and decision-making capabilities of a...

Briefs : Materials
Increasing Durability of Flame-Sprayed Strain Gauges

Thermally sprayed dielectric ceramic coatings are the primary means of attaching strain and temperature gauges to hot-section rotating parts of turbine engines. As hot-section temperatures increase, lifetimes of installed gauges decrease, and seldom exceed one hour above 2,000 °F ( ≈1,100...

Briefs : Materials
Multifunctional, High-Temperature Nanocomposites

In experiments conducted as part of a continuing effort to incorporate multifunctionality into advanced composite materials, blends of multi-walled carbon nanotubes and a resin denoted "PETI-330" (wherein "PETI" is an abbreviation for "phenylethynyl- terminated imide") were prepared,...

Briefs : Materials
Multilayer Impregnated Fibrous Thermal Insulation Tiles

The term "secondary polymer layered impregnated tile" ("SPLIT") denotes a type of ablative composite-material thermal- insulation tiles having engineered, spatially non-uniform compositions. The term "secondary" refers to the fact that each tile contains at least two polymer layers wherein...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Film/Adhesive Processing Module for Fiber-Placement Processing of Composites

An automated apparatus has been designed and constructed that enables the automated lay-up of composite structures incorporating films, foils, and adhesives during the automated fiberplacement process. This apparatus, denoted a film module, could be used to deposit...

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