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: Sensors/Data Acquisition

A paper-based sensor, which can be worn as a wristband, features happy and sad emoticon faces drawn in an invisible UV-sensitive ink. They successively light up as you...

Briefs: Communications

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) TechSolutions program, the Flashing Light to Text Converter (FLTC) features a camera that can be mounted atop a signal...

Briefs: Photonics/Optics

The diagnosis of diseases based in internal organs often relies on biopsy samples collected from affected regions. But collecting such samples is highly error-prone due to the...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers

Researchers have developed an imaging technique that uses a tiny, super sharp needle to nudge a single nanoparticle into different orientations and capture 2-D images to help...

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition

Researchers at Rensselaer Poytechnic Institute (RPI) have developed a new approach to optical imaging that makes it possible to quickly and economically monitor multiple molecular interactions in a...

Briefs: Propulsion

An optical setup developed by researchers at Sandia's Combustion Research Facility and the Technical University of Denmark can now quantify the formation of soot — particulate matter consisting...

Briefs: Photonics/Optics

Researchers have, for the first time, integrated two technologies widely used in applications such as optical communications, bio-imaging, and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) systems. In the...

Briefs: Mechanical & Fluid Systems

Inspired by the human eye, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed an adaptive metalens that is essentially a flat,...

Briefs: Medical

It's hard to get an X-ray image of low-density material like tissue between bones because X-rays just pass right through like sunlight through a window. Sandia studies myriads of low-density materials,...

Briefs: Nanotechnology

To keep up with Moore's Law — an observation made in the 1960s that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles about every two years — researchers...

Briefs: Robotics, Automation & Control
Precision Low-Speed Motor Controller

Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center have developed a method for controlling precise motion of a brushless DC (BLDC) motor using relatively inexpensive components. Precision motors are usually quite expensive and inefficient when operating at slow speeds. Current motors are only capable of operating at...

Briefs: Data Acquisition
Composable Storage Platform for High-Performance Computing

Large-scale, high-performance computing — supercomputing — is essential to solving both complex and large questions. But storage platforms essential for these advanced computer systems have been stuck in a rigid framework that required users to either choose between customization of...

Briefs: Communications

Future Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and air taxis will require advanced onboard autonomy to operate safely within complex and dynamic urban environments. Urban landscapes...

Briefs: Propulsion
Green Electric Monopropellant (GEM)-Fueled Pulsed Plasma Thruster

NASA required a rocket thruster able to produce a number of pulses at high specific impulse at a relatively low voltage (~300 to 400V). The key problem was that existing propellants for liquid-fueled pulsed plasma thrusters (LPPTs) required high voltages to ablate and accelerate...

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition
Multi-Purpose, Flexible Wing Structure for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as micro air vehicles, are promising tools for a variety of military and commercial applications. Some small UAS have flexible wings and are lightweight, making them back-packable and easy to deploy. Most UAS that are...

Briefs: Photonics/Optics

Light is the most energy-efficient way to move information; however, light shows one big limitation: it is difficult to store. Data centers, for example, rely primarily on magnetic hard drives in...

Briefs: Electronics & Computers

Heat shields are essentially used as the brakes to stop spacecraft from burning up and crashing on entry and reentry into a planet's atmosphere. Current spacecraft heat shield methods include...

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition

Objects in our daily lives, such as speakers, refrigerators, and even cars, are becoming “smarter” day by day as they connect to the Internet and exchange data, creating the Internet of Things (IoT)....

Briefs: Test & Measurement
MEMS Switch Extends Life of Cellphones

A new type of microelectromechanical system (MEMS) was developed that uses electrostatic levitation to provide a more robust system. All cellphones use MEMS switches for wireless communication, but traditionally there are just two electrodes. The switches open and close numerous times during just one hour,...

Briefs: Aerospace

NASA Langley Research Center has developed a new approach for designing aircraft liner cores for noise reduction. The cores are comprised of multiple honeycomb-shaped chambers,...

Briefs: Sensors/Data Acquisition

Outsourcing machine learning is a rising trend in industry. Major tech firms have launched cloud platforms that conduct computation-heavy tasks, such as running data through a convolutional...

Briefs: Software
Self-Stabilizing, Distributed, Symmetric, Fault-Tolerant Synchronization

Distributed systems have become an integral part of safety-critical computing applications, necessitating system designs that incorporate complex fault-tolerant resource management functions to provide globally coordinated operations with ultra-reliability. As a result,...

Briefs: Test & Measurement

Traditional methods, such as reverse osmosis, that remove contaminants from water are expensive and energy-intensive. Researchers have developed technology to remove contaminants from water,...

Briefs: Test & Measurement

NASA's Langley Research Center has developed a method that introduces solids and particulates — specifically aerogels — into composites or...

Briefs: Aerospace
Real-Time, Fuel-Optimal, Powered Descent Guidance Using Interpolated Time-of-Flight and Propellant Mass

Soft landing using rockets requires a trajectory to be planned for the lander from rocket ignition — typically several kilometers in altitude and moving at up to 200 m/s — to the point near the surface with near-zero velocity. The exact...

Briefs: Data Acquisition

The technological ramp to fully autonomous vehicles presents significant challenges for companies developing autonomous vehicle programs. Advanced sensor technology, high-speed and...

Briefs: Medical

Titanium is as strong as steel but about twice as light. These properties depend on the way a metal's atoms are stacked, but random defects that arise in the...

Briefs: Internet of Things
Interoperable Intelligent Controllers for Process Management and Control Networks

NASA Johnson Space Center developed reprogrammable and interchangeable electronic controllers that can attach to a system or subsystem wirelessly or through plug-and-play capability. Originally designed to work with rocket engines, this technology can control...

Briefs: Software
Small-Body Dynamics Toolkit Version 5.0

The Small-Body Dynamics Toolkit (SBDT) v5.0 is a collection of primitive-body-specific trajectory design and analysis tools written in MATLAB®. The SBDT gives the user the capabilities to propagate, analyze, and visualize spacecraft trajectories and the dynamical environment near realistic asteroid,...

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