Tech Briefs

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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: Manufacturing & Prototyping

An advanced manufacturing process was developed to produce nano-structured rods and tubes directly from high-performance aluminum alloy powder in a single step. Using a Solid Phase Processing...

Briefs: Energy

A new device, inspired by a rose, inexpensively collects and purifies water. The device is a new approach to solar steaming for water production — a technique that uses energy from sunlight...

Briefs: Aerospace

A radically new kind of airplane wing, assembled from hundreds of tiny identical pieces, can change shape to control the plane’s flight, and could provide a significant boost in...

Briefs: Data Acquisition
Technique Locates Robots and Humans in GPS-Challenged Environments

An algorithm enables localization of humans and robots in areas where GPS is unavailable. The Army needs to be able to localize agents operating in physically complex, unknown, and infrastructure-poor environments. This capability is critical to help find dismounted soldiers and...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Researchers have 3D-printed an all-liquid device that, with the click of a button, can be repeatedly reconfigured on demand to serve a wide range of applications from making battery materials to screening drug...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers

For decades, microchip transistors have become smaller, faster, and cheaper; however, miniaturization has reached a natural limit, as completely new problems arise when a length scale of only a...

Briefs: Aerospace

NASA’s Langley Research Center developed an inexpensive, long-endurance, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It is capable of flying for 24 hours, landing in a 50 × 50...

Briefs: Aerospace

In the wake of recent developments that have reduced fan and jet noise contributions to overall jet-engine noise, aircraft designers are turning their attention toward reducing engine core...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Neural Lander Uses AI to Land Drones Smoothly

Landing multi-rotor drones smoothly is difficult. Complex turbulence is created by the airflow from each rotor bouncing off the ground during a descent. This turbulence is not well understood nor is it easy to compensate for, particularly for autonomous drones. That is why takeoff and landing are...

Briefs: Test & Measurement

Researchers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center are pioneering shape-sensing technologies that seek to maximize structural integrity and efficiency. A new and...

Briefs: Motion Control

A smartphone app was developed that allows a user to easily program any robot to perform a mundane activity such as picking up parts from one area and delivering them to another. The app, called VRa, uses...

Briefs: Automotive

A high-sensitivity and low-noise MEMS accelerometer was developed using multi-layer metal structures composed of multiple metal layers. The accelerometer achieves 1 μG level resolution that has...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Soft robots have a distinct advantage over rigid robots: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects, and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber, or other stretchable polymers,...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping

An automated system designs and 3D-prints complex robotic parts that are optimized according to an enormous number of specifications. The system fabricates actuators — devices that mechanically...

Briefs: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of organs and tissues in the human body, helping doctors diagnose potential problems or diseases. Doctors use MRI to...

Briefs: Materials

Different instruments are needed to study the interaction of contact surfaces at different length scales. Tribometers measure the coefficient of friction but they...

Briefs: Photonics/Optics

At the scale of bridges or buildings, the most important force that engineered structures need to deal with is gravity. But at the scale of microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) — devices like...

Briefs: Energy
Low-Cost Thermoelectric Material Works at Room Temperature

The widespread adoption of thermoelectric devices that can directly convert electricity into thermal energy for cooling and heating has been hindered, in part, by the lack of materials that are both inexpensive and highly efficient at room temperature. A new material was developed that...

Briefs: AR/AI

Robotics has traditionally focused on industrial applications in which robots require strength and precision to carry out repetitive tasks. These robots flourish in highly...

Briefs: Materials

Landing is stressful on a rocket’s legs because they must handle the force from the impact with the landing pad. One way to combat this is to build legs out of materials that absorb some of...

Briefs: Semiconductors & ICs

Some organic materials cannot be utilized similarly to silicon semiconductors in optoelectronics. Whether in solar cells, light-emitting diodes, or in transistors, what is important is the bandgap, i.e....

Briefs: Electronics & Computers

Recently discovered two-dimensional (2D) materials with superlative properties have the potential to advance semiconductors but creating 2D devices with both good electrical contacts and...

Briefs: Aerospace
Multi- and Wide-Band Single-Feed Patch Antenna

A novel patch antenna technology was developed that provides significant benefits to NASA satellite communication applications, offering a unique wide-band/multi-band operating capability. For other non-space applications, the antenna design also offers broadband capability with high gain for...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Unlike water, liquid refrigerants and other fluids that have a low surface tension spread quickly into a sheet when they come into contact with a surface. For many industrial...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control

While different approaches have been used to create artificial muscles — including hydraulic systems, servomotors, shape-memory metals, and polymers that respond to stimuli — they all have limitations such...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers
Virtual MIL-STD-1553B Remote Terminals

For complex boards with multiple FPGAs, each FPGA can implement its own remote terminal (RT) core and present itself logically to the bus as a remote terminal while sharing the RT’s hardware. This simplifies the design since commands and telemetry do not have to be distributed and collected by user logic;...

Briefs: Imaging
Antenna Near-Field Probe Station Scanner

Antenna characterization techniques are often expensive and time-consuming. NASA’s Glenn Research Center developed a highly versatile and automated system to perform characterization of single or multiple small circuit antennas, printed on-wafer or on other substrates, by measuring the antenna’s...

Briefs: Communications
Self-Configurable Radio Receiver System and Method

A self-configurable radio receiver system was developed for relaying communication signals from multiple deep space assets. Most conventional radio receivers are hardwired to receive a specific type of signal and are incapable of receiving other types of signals without preconfiguration...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

A soft and conformable health monitor can broadcast electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, respiratory rate, and motion activity data as much as 15 meters to a portable recording...

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