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 : Photonics/Optics
Ultrasensitive Chip-Based Sensors

An optical whispering gallery mode resonator was developed that can spin light around the circumference of a tiny sphere millions of times, creating an ultrasensitive, microchip-based sensor for multiple applications.

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Thermal-Compensating Optics Housing

Existing optics mounts sandwich the optic axially between two metal components, which can lead to optical surface damage and misalignment when exposed to fluctuating temperatures. Thermal-compensating...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Capacitive Pressure Sensor System and Packaging

Pressure sensors play an important role in engine maintenance and monitoring systems by diagnosing problems before they happen. To capture the most accurate data, however, these sensors must be...

Briefs : Propulsion
High-Voltage Power Line Multi-Sensor System

Government infrastructure facilities such as water treatment facilities, power plants, laboratories, and the like may be targets for terrorist attacks. Similarly, oil pipelines, power grids,...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Scalable Manufacturing Process for Creating Spools of Graphene

For many researchers, graphene is ideal for use in filtration membranes. A single sheet of graphene resembles atomically thin chicken wire, and is composed of carbon atoms joined...

Briefs : Communications
Steering-Mirror-Assisted Laser Fine Pointing

Pointing precision is a critical element of instrumentation for optical communications and ranging in space, affecting laser design, link power budgets, and SWaP. While star trackers possess...

Briefs : Energy
Self-Powering Sensor Using a Nano-Energy Harvester

Existing nanosensor technologies depend on an external power source (typically a battery) to operate. Chemical and biological sensors based on nanowire or nanotube technologies exhibit...

Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Film Blocks Electromagnetic Interference

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can harm smartphones, tablets, chips, drones, wearables, aircraft, and human health. EMI is increasing with the explosive proliferation of devices that generate it. A technique was developed to produce relatively low-cost EMI-blocking composite films.

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Printing Technology Uses Sound Waves to Control Size of Liquid Droplets

Liquid droplets are used in many applications, from printing ink on paper to creating microcapsules for drug delivery. Inkjet printing is the most common technique used...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Plasma Generator Using Spiral Conductors

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a patented SansEC sensor technology for use in many different areas, including tall structures and wind turbines. The SansEC technology is a proven wireless sensing platform capable of measuring the electrical impedance of physical matter in proximity to the...

Briefs : Propulsion
Rocket Nozzle Side-Load Analysis Software

Lateral nozzle forces are known to cause severe structural damage during testing of any new rocket engine configuration under development. While three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics (CFD)...

Briefs : Software
Selecting a Software Programming Platform

Software development and testing comprises about half of the control system design and integration effort, so a programming platform that can ease and speed the process is vital. Such PC-based...

Briefs : Materials
Ultrathin, Ultralight “Nanocardboard” Recovers Shape After Bending

When choosing materials to make something, tradeoffs need to be made among properties such as thickness, stiffness, and weight. A new material called nanocardboard was...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) 370 Resin for High-Temperature Applications

RTM370 imide resin was developed to address the limitations of conventional imide resins, which are generated from commercially available symmetrical biphenyl...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Manufacturing Technique Helps Inkjet Printers Deliver Ink More Evenly

When a coffee mug leaves a ring, the outer edges of that ring are darker than the inside of the ring. That's because the solute is separated from the liquid during the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Designing Self-Propelled, Chemically Active Sheets

Researchers have created a two-dimensional, shape-changing sheet that moves autonomously in a reactant-filled fluid. The integrated system utilizes a chemical reaction to activate the fluid...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Micro-Robot Climbs on Vertical and Upside-Down Conductive Surfaces

Jet engines can have up to 25,000 individual parts, making regular maintenance a tedious task that can take more than a month per engine. Many components are located deep...

Briefs : Aerospace
Foot Pedal Controller

A novel foot-pedal-operated system and device were developed to control translational and rotational movement of an object in three-dimensional (3D) space. The Foot Pedal Controller system enables operators to control...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Tiny Robots Grow Bio-inspired Shapes

Hundreds of small robots can work in a team to create biology-inspired shapes without an underlying master plan, purely based on local communication and movement. To achieve this, the biological...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Artificial Joint Restores Wrist-Like Movements

For patients missing a hand, one of the biggest challenges to regaining a high level of function is the inability to rotate one's wrist (pronate and supinate). These are essential movements...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Imaging System Makes Back Surgery Safer, Faster, Less Expensive

Researchers at Dartmouth have found a way to make back surgery safer, faster, and more cost effective. MRIs and CT scans can help surgeons identify spine problems such as...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Decoding Multiple Frames From a Single Scattered Exposure

Engineers at Duke University have developed a way to extract a sequence of images from light scattered through a mostly opaque material — or even off a wall — from one long...

Briefs : Imaging
New X-Ray Scanning Method Reveals How Particles Move in Solution

A new method of X-ray scanning will allow for the visualization of many more biological molecules, providing critical information about what is inside molecules to scientists...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Ultra-Thin “Meta-Lens” Enables Full-Color Imaging

Light of different colors travels at different speeds in different materials and structures. This is why we see white light split into its constituent colors after refracting through a...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Microresonators Offer Simpler Approach to Sensing With Light Pulses

Ultrashort optical pulses are becoming more and more relevant in a number of applications including distance measurement, molecular fingerprinting and ultrafast sampling....

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Portable, Wearable, Ultrasound Transducer

Researchers have developed a new ultrasound transducer that could dramatically lower the cost of ultrasound scanners to as little as $100. Conventional ultrasound scanners use piezoelectric crystals...

Briefs : Materials
Seal with Integrated Shroud to Protect from Exposure to Extreme Environments

Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have designed a superior seal assembly that is durable and highly dependable in extremely harsh environments. This...

Briefs : Medical
Imaging Technique Detects Skin Cancer Without Invasive Biopsy

Researchers funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed a non-invasive imaging technique that accurately detects skin cancer...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Aircraft with Vectored Thrust for Control and Continuously Variable Pitch Attitude in Hover

Most fixed-wing VTOL unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) take off vertically, then transition to horizontal flight. This is a new type of UAV that has unique capability. It can vary its hover position from “nose up”...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Enhanced X-Ray Imaging Determines Molecular Structure

For more than 100 years, X-rays have been used in crystallography to determine the structure of molecules. At the heart of the method are the principles of diffraction and superposition,...

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