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 : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Portable Acousto-Optic Spectrometers

Spectrometers are widely used for applications such as chemical analysis, remote sensing, quality control, environmental monitoring, spaceborne measurements, and optical measurements. Most spectrometers...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Dynamic Optical Grating Device for Modulating Light

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a novel optical grating device that dynamically modulates light and is capable of controlling the spectral properties and propagation of light...

Briefs : Motion Control
Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor

The Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor is a highly accurate sensor for motion control applications. The sensor was designed to monitor the precise movements of an optical inspection system that...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Alternating Current Photovoltaic Building Block

Today's photovoltaic power systems are generally comprised of a single photovoltaic module or multiple modules connected by combinations of series and parallel circuits as a photovoltaic array....

Briefs : Communications
Using Sound Waves to Produce Optical Isolators

There are challenges involved when using magnetically responsive materials to achieve the one-way flow of light in a photonic chip, including the ability to place compact magnets on a chip. In...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Blue-Light Imaging Sees Through Fire

A blue-light imaging method was developed that can be used to obtain visual data from large test fires where high temperatures could disable or destroy conventional electrical and mechanical sensors. The...

Briefs : Materials
Variable-Pitch Turbine Blades

Gas turbine blades of conventional rotorcraft turboshaft engines are optimized to operate at nearly a fixed speed and a fixed incidence angle. If the operating condition of the engine changes, then the flow...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
System Makes Opaque Materials Totally Transparent

Most naturally occurring materials have a disordered atomic structure that interferes with the propagation of both sound and electromagnetic waves. When the waves come into contact with these...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Submarine Swims Without an Engine

Researchers have developed a new propulsion concept for swimming robots that exploits temperature fluctuations in the water for propulsion without the need for an engine, propellant, or power supply.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Reusable Breakaway Mounting Device

Breakaway devices are used to mount objects to systems or structures (for example, cars, drones, helmets, buildings) and prevent damage when the objects fall away from the system. Unfortunately, even in ideal scenarios, many of these devices have limitations. Breakaway bolts and shear pins have the complication...

Briefs : Energy
Battery Provides Electric Vehicles with Immunity from Climate Conditions

Conventional lithium-ion batteries cannot be rapidly charged at temperatures below 50 °F. Electric vehicles are popular on the West Coast because the weather is...

Briefs : Energy
Thermochromic Windows Convert Sunlight into Electricity

Relying on advanced materials such as perovskites and single-walled carbon nano-tubes, a window technology was developed that responds to heat by transforming from transparent to...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
A New Twist Makes Rotating Machinery More Efficient and Quieter

Derived from a design approach for a new wing known as PRANDTL-D, this technology achieves similar improvements for propellers and other rotating machinery.

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Active Pointing Monitor for a 2-Axis Optical Control System

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a pointing measurement detection and control system that monitors the real-time optical axis motions (such as tip and tilt) that affect image quality in aerial platforms. To date, there is no known real-time optical image alignment and...

White Papers : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Bringing Intelligence to Vibration Monitoring Solutions

In today’s competitive manufacturing environment, efficiency is more important than ever. Leading manufacturers are driving improvements based on real-time data. This white paper discusses several common obstacles for machine monitoring in the factory and introduces the all-in-one data...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Method Enables Electronic Components to be Printed Like Newspapers

Cellphones, laptops, tablets, and many other electronics rely on their internal metallic circuits to process information at high speed. Current metal fabrication techniques...

Briefs : Medical
Wireless System Pinpoints Location of Ingestible Implants

An “in-body GPS” system was developed that can pinpoint the location of ingestible implants inside the body using low-power wireless signals. These implants could be used as tiny tracking devices on shifting tumors to help monitor their slight movements. The system, called ReMix, can...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Piezoelectric Resonator with Two Layers

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) filters have advantages in being able to reduce the size, weight, and power required when used as part of electronic systems such as radios; however, MEMS-type filters have limitations. For example, thickness MEMS-type filters (e.g., thickness-extensional mode...

Briefs : Nanotechnology
Nano-Additives Increase the Service Life of Concrete

A new method increases the service life of concrete structures by reducing the infiltration rates of deleterious ions. The key is a nano-sized additive that slows down penetration of...

Briefs : Medical
Kit Containing Stem Cells and Cytokines for Use in Attenuating Immune Responses

Stem cells have two distinct characteristics that distinguish them from other cell types. First, they are unspecialized and can self-renew for long periods without significant changes in their general properties. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental...

Briefs : Materials
Self-Healing Metal Oxides for Corrosion Protection

Most metals, with the notable exception of gold, tend to oxidize when exposed to air and water. This reaction — which produces rust on iron, tarnish on silver, and verdigris on copper or...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
A Biologically Inspired Method of Improving Systems and Survivability Through Self-Sacrifice

In human beings, the self-destruction behavior of human body cells is considered as an intrinsic safety mechanism of the human body. It seems that the lifetime of a cell is programmed, and that cells know when to commit suicide. This self-destruction is...

Briefs : Energy
Energy-Storing Material Folds Onto Itself

Eagles can store energy in their feet without having to continuously contract their muscles to then jump high or hold on to prey. New materials have been created that can store energy this way. The...

Briefs : Imaging
Super-Resolution Image Reconstruction (SRIR)

Many low-cost sensors (or cameras) may spatially or electronically under-sample an image. Similarly, cameras taking pictures from great distances, such as aerial photos, may not obtain detailed...

Briefs : Medical
Machine Learning Method Detects Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S., one in every four deaths is a result of heart...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration

Robots that are adapted to respond to physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) traditionally treat such interactions as disturbances, and resume their original behaviors when the...

Briefs : Aerospace
Synthesis and Development of Polyurethane Coatings Containing Fluorine Groups for Adhesive Applications

Accumulation of insect strikes on the leading edge of airplane wings is a more serious problem than one might realize. Depending on the magnitude, such accumulation changes the aerodynamic characteristics of the wing, causing a change from...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment

Colloids — insoluble particles or molecules anywhere from a billionth to a millionth of a meter across — are so small they can stay suspended indefinitely in a liquid or even in air. Robots about...

Briefs : Materials
Inorganic Compound for Use in Quantum Computing

Quantum computers will be able to solve problems well beyond the reach of existing computers while working much faster and consuming vastly less energy. An inorganic compound was developed that...

Briefs : Materials
Bacteria-Fighting Polymers Created with Light

Hundreds of polymers that could kill drug-resistant superbugs in novel ways can be produced and tested using light. The new method may help identify antimicrobials for a range of applications from personal care to coatings.