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 : Data Acquisition
Technique Boosts Capacity of Computer Storage

The most dense solid-state memory ever created could soon exceed the capabilities of current computer storage devices by 1,000 times using a new technique. The same technology was used to manufacture atomic-scale circuits, allowing for quickly removing or replacing single hydrogen atoms. The...

Briefs : Materials
Metamaterial Device Controls Transmission and Reflection of Acoustic Waves

A thin material was developed that can control the redirection and reflection of sound waves with almost perfect efficiency. While many theoretical approaches to...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Nano/Micro Mechanical Environmental Test Cell

A device and method have been developed to conduct compression and tensile tests on soft materials such as flocculated sediments, biopolymers, biological materials, and food stuffs. The device...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Microtesting Rig

The measurement of mechanical behavior in very small samples whose dimensions are on the order of microns and below can offer advantages over conventional macroscopic testing in many instances. Motivations for investigating...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Electrical Contact to Molecules in Semiconductor Structures

To further develop semiconductor technology, the field of molecular electronics is seeking to manufacture circuit components from individual molecules instead of silicon. Because of...

Briefs : Aerospace
High-Kinetic-Energy Penetrator Shielding and High-Wear-Resistance Materials Fabricated with Boron Nitride Nanotubes and BNNT Polymer Composites

In recent years, anti-penetration materials have been more widely used for armor, bulletproof vests, and micrometeoroid and orbital debris protection layers for space-suits, space vehicles, and...

Briefs : Power
Integrated Multiphysics and Advanced Diagnostics

The objective of this effort was to design, fabricate, integrate, and fly a nuclear thermal rocket without having to build massive ground test facilities. Furthermore, this nuclear rocket...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Device Detects Explosives, Drugs, or Lead

Warfighters and law enforcement personnel encounter many situations where they need to assess and determine if a situation is hostile or benign. Currently available field explosive detection kits are...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Stray Energy Indicator for Pyrotechnic Applications

A compact and portable system is used to monitor and store real-time measurements of stray energy through a pyrotechnic firing circuit using infrared technology. The infrared sensor is mated to the NASA Standard Initiator simulator, and is calibrated such that the current input through the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots

The Army uses robots that are structurally rigid, making them impractical when performing military operations in highly congested and contested urban environments where covert maneuvering is critical...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Faster Photons Could Make Data Totally Secure

Transferring data using light passed along fiber optic cables has become increasingly common over the past decades, but each pulse currently contains millions of photons. That means that in principle, a portion of these could be intercepted without detection. Secure data is already encrypted, but if...

Briefs : RF & Microwave Electronics
Atomically Thin Device Transmits Signals Across a Broad Frequency Range

The challenge of miniaturizing devices and systems is also achieving a broader dynamic range of detection for small signals such as sound, vibration, and radio...

Briefs : Materials
Catalytic Mechanism Converts CO2 to Methanol

Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) and converting it to useful chemicals such as methanol could reduce both pollution and U.S. dependence on petroleum products. Catalysts are used to bring...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Novel Synaptic Architecture for Brain-Inspired Computing

Over the past few years, deep learning algorithms have proven to be highly successful in solving complex cognitive tasks such as controlling self-driving cars and language...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Carbon Dioxide Collection and Pressurization Technology

Mars is the ultimate destination for NASA's human exploration program. In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is a key technology required to enable such missions. The goals of using resources available at the exploration site are to reduce launch and delivered mass, reduce risk and cost,...

Briefs : Materials
Coatings Make Natural Fabrics Waterproof

Fabrics that resist water are essential for everything from rainwear to military tents, but conventional water-repellent coatings have been shown to persist in the environment and accumulate in our...

Briefs : Data Acquisition
Artificial Intelligence Senses People Through Walls

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been used to teach wireless devices to sense people's postures and movement, even from the other side of a wall. RF-Pose uses a neural network to analyze...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Piezoelectric Thrust Vector Control for Hall Effect Thruster

The design of the CubeSat required precision pointing of the thrust vector through the spacecraft center of gravity to minimize fuel usage for attitude correction. Because the center of gravity shifts over the course of the mission, a means of adjusting the thrust vector was needed....

Briefs : Materials
Non-Toxic HAN Monopropellant Propulsion

A highly miniaturized, MR-143, green monopropellant thruster was developed for 1N thrust. Testing indicated the initial catalyst bed heater was insufficient. In subsequent development, the thruster was equipped with a more efficient catalyst bed heater. For reliable ignition of the advanced, non-toxic,...

Briefs : RF & Microwave Electronics
Transmitter Protects Wireless Data from Hackers

Today, more than 8 billion devices are connected around the world, including medical devices, wearables, vehicles, and smart household and city technologies. Those devices are vulnerable to...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Antiferromagnetic-Based Memory Processes Data at Terahertz Speeds

Data travels down fiber-optic cables at frequencies of several terahertz. As soon as the data arrives on a PC or television, this speed must be throttled down to match the data processing speed of the device components; this speed currently is in the range of a few hundred...

Briefs : Automotive
Active Measurement Cancellation

A battery pack is only as strong as its weakest cell. As battery packs become larger and more integral to the stable operation of devices and systems, the need to monitor battery dependability and performance...

Briefs : Communications
Rapidly Deployable Communications Platform

First responders often have trouble communicating with each other in emergencies. They may use different types of radios, they may be working in rural areas lacking wireless coverage, or they may be...

Briefs : Materials
Melt-Cast Explosive Material

The Environmental Protection Agency has listed trinitrotoluene (TNT) as a possible carcinogen, and exposure to the material has been linked to disorders of the blood, such as anemia, and abnormal liver function,...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Flexible, Compliant, Multiline Microprobes for Measuring Material Electrical Properties

The ability to measure the electronic conductivity of battery film coatings is a pressing need in the battery industry; however, these measurements can...

Briefs : Nanotechnology
Faster, More Efficient Information Processing

For decades, computer chips have been shrinking thanks to a steady stream of technological improvements in processing density. Experts have, however, been warning that we'll soon reach the end of the trend known as Moore's Law, in which the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits...

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Controlled Manufacture of Porous Silicon Carbide

Extremely fine porous structures with tiny holes — resembling a kind of sponge at the nano level — can be generated in semiconductors. A method was developed for the controlled manufacture...

Briefs : Automotive
Direct-Current Detector for Emergency Responder Safety

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a direct-current detector technology to help emergency responders safely detect high voltages, which they have...

Briefs : Transportation
Realization of High-Performance Magnetic Sensors Using Magnetic Vortex Structures

Magnetic sensors play a key role in a variety of applications, such as speed and position sensing in the automotive industry and in biomedical applications....