electrical and electronics
Automated Fabric Circuit and Antenna Fabrication
Modern production of e-textiles utilizes an embroidery technique called e-broidery that directly stitches circuit patterns with conductive thread onto textiles. This automated manufacturing process combines steps of e-broidery and milling to expand the application of e-textiles to high-current and high-speed uses. Manufacturing begins with two layouts of the desired conductive pattern. After assembling the layers of conductive and nonconductive materials, e-broidery is performed with the second layout and nonconductive thread to secure the layers together and designate the pattern for the conductive material. The secured assembly is transferred to an automated milling or laser cutting machine, which cuts the desired conductive pattern and releases the unneeded portions of the conductive material. The resulting e-textiles are tightly woven together, providing higher surface conductivity and impedance control. Initial comparison tests assessing the performance of fabric-based spiral antennas developed with this method, compared to conventional antennas, indicated no loss in performance across multiple metrics, including voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR), radiation pattern, and axial ratio performance. The Method and Apparatus for Fabric Circuits and Antennas is a technology readiness level (TRL) 6 (system/subsystem prototype demonstration in a relevant environment). The innovation is now available for your company to license. Please note that NASA does not manufacture products itself for commercial sale.
Process for fabricating superconducting circuitry on both sides of an ultra-thin silicon (Si) layer.
This fabrication method allows for a minimalistic silicon wafer to be used as a circuit board while reducing space and increasing efficiency by depositing superconducting material on both sides. Due to the thin nature of the silicon wafer, an additional backing handle wafer is required during the fabrication of this circuitry to allow for deposition of metal thin film on a hot substrate on one side of the wafer. In addition, a metallic and polymeric sacrificial layer is used to protect the silicon substrate and superconducting metallic layers during removal of the unwanted silicon, buried oxide, and epoxy layers. This process introduces the fabrication methodology required to realize the ultra-low loss transmission lines and ultra-low crosstalk between superconducting sensors.
materials and coatings
Exfoliated Hexagonal Boron Nitride
The invented method involves mechanical breakdown of large hBN particles followed by chemical functionalization to achieve exfoliation of the hBN sheets. The exfoliated h- nanosheets are of mono- or few atomic layers thick, and dispersible (or suspendable, soluble) in common organic solvents and/or water, depending upon the nature of the functionalities. The functionalities can be subsequently removed by thermal treatment, with the hBN nanostructures remaining intact and exfoliated.
electrical and electronics
Nanostructure-Based Vacuum Channel Transistor
A planar lateral air transistor was fabricated using standard silicon semiconductor processing. The emitter and collector were sub-lithographically separated by photoresist ashing, with the curvature of the tip controlled by the thermal reflow of the photoresist. The gap can be shrunk as small as 10nm using this process. Since the nanogap separating the emitter and collector is smaller than the electron mean free path in air, vacuum is not needed. The present structure exhibits superior gate controllability and negligible gate leakage current due to adoption of the gate insulator. The device has potential for high performance and low power applications; also, since vacuum as the carrier transport medium is immune to high temperature and radiation, the proposed nanotransistors are ideal for extreme environments. Process and layout refinements such as coating a low work function material on the emitter, reducing the overlap area and optimizing the oxide thickness can potentially improve the cut-off frequency well into the THz regime.
Fabricating printable electronics and biosensor chips
The plasma system consists of a glass tube with a diameter of 0.5 mm or larger, if desired. The electrodes are separated by 10 mm. Helium, argon or cold dry air can be used as a plasma gas source. An applied high voltage between the electrodes causes the gas to breakdown within the central core of the glass capillary generating atmospheric plasma. Nanostructures colloids/organic/inorganic precursors are placed in a glass container with an inlet and outlet for carrier gas and are seated on an ultrasonic nebuliser. The aerosol is then carried into the plasma stream by the carrier gas and is deposited. The atmospheric plasma deposition system can be modified for depositing multiple materials, either simultaneously or sequentially, and for high-throughput processing by having multiple jets. Each capillary can either be connected to the container containing a single precursor material or to different containers containing different precursor materials to facilitate multiple depositions. The multi-jet plasma system can be automated and controlled individually to precisely control surface characteristics. This technique is independent of the chosen substrate, and has proven to work for many substrates, including paper, plastic, semiconductors and metals.
electrical and electronics
Printable IoT sensor development platform
Advances in additive manufacturing have enabled development of printable electronic sensor elements that can be deposited onto flexible substrates. To benchmark performance of printed sensors against the state of the art, NASA developed a low power flexible sensor platform. The platform integrates the following key components and features: -Flexible substrate: DuPont Kapton allows bending around cylindrical surfaces as small as in diameter. -Embedded microcontroller: Cypress CY8C4248 LQI-BL583 Arm Cortex M0 processor with BLE wireless controller, max frequency 48 MHz. Supports low power modes of operation, capacitive sensing support, and a single-channel 12-bit AD converter. -Commercial sensor suite: Bosch BNO080 inertial sensor; Bosch BME280 humidity, pressure, and temperature sensor; AMS CCS811 air quality sensor (VOCs and CO2). -Prototyping area for custom-printed sensors: 1) thermistor, uses carbon-based PTC resistor paste DuPont2792; 2) capacitive humidity sensor using a NASA-developed dielectric ink. NASA researchers have used the platform to study performance of the printed capacitive humidity sensor. The 2x4 mm co-doped barium titanate sensing element is highly sensitive to water vapor and performs as an unobtrusive breathing monitor, sensitive to breath at distances of up to 20 cm. Average change of sensor capacitance at a distance of 7.5 cm was observed to be 6.23.5 pF.
How It Works The scanners operation is based on the principle of Laser Triagulation. The ShuttleSCAN contains an imaging sensor; two lasers mounted on opposite sides of the imaging sensor; and a customized, on-board processor for processing the data from the imaging sensor. The lasers are oriented at a given angle and surface height based on the size of objects being examined. For inspecting small details, such as defects in space shuttle tiles, a scanner is positioned close to the surface. This creates a small field of view but with very high resolution. For scanning larger objects, such as use in a robotic vision application, a scanner can be positioned several feet above the surface. This increases the field of view but results in slightly lower resolution. The laser projects a line on the surface, directly below the imaging sensor. For a perfectly flat surface, this projected line will be straight. As the ShuttleSCAN head moves over the surface, defects or irregularities above and below the surface will cause the line to deviate from perfectly straight. The SPACE processors proprietary algorithms interpret these deviations in real time and build a representation of the defect that is then transmitted to an attached PC for triangulation and 3-D display or printing. Real-time volume calculation of the defect is a capability unique to the ShuttleSCAN system. Why It Is Better The benefits of the ShuttleSCAN 3-D system are very unique in the industry. No other 3-D scanner can offer the combination of speed, resolution, size, power efficiency, and versatility. In addition, ShuttleSCAN can be used as a wireless instrument, unencumbered by cables. Traditional scanning systems make a tradeoff between resolution and speed. ShuttleSCANs onboard SPACE processor eliminates this tradeoff. The system scans at speeds greater than 600,000 points per second, with a resolution smaller than .001". Results of the scan are available in real time, whereas conventional systems scan over the surface, analyze the scanned data, and display the results long after the scan is complete.
Conformal, Lightweight, Aerogel-Based Antenna
This CLAS-ACT is a lightweight, active phased array conformal antenna comprised of a thin multilayer microwave printed circuit board built on a flexible aerogel substrate using new methods of bonding. The aerogel substrate enables the antenna to be fitted onto curved surface. NASA's prototype operates at 11-15 GHz (Ku-band), but the design could be scaled to operate in the Ka-band (26 to 40 GHz). The antenna element design incorporates a dual stacked patch for wide bandwidth to operate on both the uplink and downlink frequencies with a common aperture. These elements are supported by a flexible variant of aerogel that allows the material to be thick in comparison to the wavelength of the signal with little to no additional weight. The conformal antenna offers advantages of better aerodynamics for the airframe, and potentially offers more physical area to either broadcast further distances or to broadcast at a higher data rate. The intended application for this antenna is for UAVs that need more than line of sight communications for command and control but cannot accommodate a large satellite dish. Examples may be UAVs intended for coastal monitoring, power line monitoring, emergency response, and border security where remote flying over large areas may be expected. Smaller UAVs may benefit greatly from the conformal antenna. Another possible application is a UAV mobile platform for Ku-band satellite communication. With the expectation that 5G will utilize microwave frequencies this technology may be of interest to other markets outside of satellite communications. For example, the automotive industry could benefit from a light weight conformal phased array for embedded radar. Also, the CLAS-ACT could be used for vehicle communications or even vehicle to vehicle communications.
power generation and storage
Triggering Li-ion Battery Cells with Laser Radiation
This technology is based upon a 120-watt IR laser is coupled to a fiber optic cable that is routed from the output of the laser into a series of focusing optics which directs energy onto a battery cell mounted to a test stand. When activated, heat from the laser penetrates the metal housing, heating the internals of the cell. At a specific temperature, the separator in the first few layers of the cell melts allowing the anode and cathode to make contact and initiates an internal short circuit. The internal short circuit then propagates throughout the battery eventually causing thermal runaway. The lower the wavelength of the laser used to produce the thermal runaway, the more heat-energy will be absorbed into the cell producing a faster result. The fiber optic cable can be terminated into a series of optics to focus the laser at a specific target, or the fiber optic cable can be stripped bare and placed next to the target to heat an isolated location. This method can also be used on a wide variety of cells, including Li-ion pouch cells, Li-ion cylindrical cells and Li-ion Large format cells. The innovation Triggering Li-ion Cells with Laser Radiation is at TRL 6 (which means a system/subsystem prototype has been demonstrated in a relevant environment) and the related patent application is now available to license and develop into a commercial product. Please note that NASA does not manufacture products itself for commercial sale.