Passive Smart Container
Passive Smart Container system comprises four major components: RFID circuits embedded in or around the container, an antenna and RF distribution system, and an interrogator/reader. The system uses passive RFID circuits placed on a bulk item container to track consumption and quantify items as the items are removed, added or replaced in the container. The antenna is strategically integrated with the lid or elsewhere in or around the container and is constantly coupling RFID signals to/from the RFID circuits. The circuits reply with information regarding the fill level in the container. A processor connected to the reader/interrogator can infer the fill level according to which RFID circuits respond and the magnitude and phase of the returned signals. The technology is compatible with the EPCglobal Class-1 Generation-2 RFID standard. This setup can be modified to track all kinds of items, large and small, making this technology suitable and applicable to an array of commercial fields. RFID is a disruptive technology that has made a large impact on several industries, especially in supply chain and asset management. Passive Smart Container is well positioned to tap into this growing market. Its ability to account for discrete items as well as liquids and bulk goods that were deemed impossible or impractical to tag makes this technology relevant for an array of applications and industries.
Portable Wireless Signal Booster
Communications are of paramount importance in conducting space missions, and an antenna's signal strength is vital to the success of any mission. All antennas have a limited range. NASA needed a mobile signal booster that could be placed as needed to supplement any weak spots encountered by an astronaut crew at the site once a baseline system was deployed. Like all space hardware, the booster needed to be durable, compact and lightweight. This innovation successfully integrates the classic Fresnel Ring model into a conductive fabric structure. The result is an ultra-light, deployable device that acts as a lens to significantly enhance the realizable gain of an antenna. A Fresnel Ring design on the booster is specially shaped to cancel specific phases of the radiated signal. This makes other more desirable parts of the signal more prominent. Different variations of shapes of the booster can be offered. A round, medium size unit could expect to increase signal gain in all directions by about 7 dB. A larger, elliptical-shaped unit could expect to increase signal gain in a focused direction by up to 15 dB.
Smart Enclosure using RFID for Inventory Tracking
The smart enclosure innovation employs traditional RFID cavities, resonators, and filters to provide standing electromagnetic waves within the enclosed volume in order to provide a pervasive field distribution of energy. A high level of read accuracy is achieved by using the contained electromagnetic field levels within the smart enclosure. With this method, more item level tags are successfully identified compared to approaches in which the items are radiated by an incident plane wave. The use of contained electromagnetic fields reduces the cost of the tag antenna; making it cost-effective to tag smaller items. RFID-enabled conductive enclosures have been previously developed, but did not employ specific cavity-design techniques to optimize performance within the enclosure. Also, specific cavity feed approaches provide much better distribution of fields for higher read accuracy. This technology does not restrict the enclosure surface to rectangular or cylindrical shapes; other enclosure forms can also be used. For example, the technology has been demonstrated in textiles such as duffle bags and backpacks. Potential commercial applications include inventory tracking for containers such as waste receptacles, storage containers, and conveyor belts used in grocery checkout stations.
Antenna Near-Field Probe Station Scanner
In Glenn's novel scanner system, radio-frequency (RF) signals and DC-biased voltages and currents are supplied to an antenna under test (AUT) through an RF feed and DC probe that are integrated into the system. The mechanisms for scanning the open-ended waveguide probe are a three-axis slide mechanism and a rotation mechanism that, under computer control, positions this probe to acquire data at prescribed grid points on a plane very close to the AUT. This near-field scanning scheme eliminates the need for special fixturing. It captures a maximum amount of energy radiated by one or multiple small antennas while they are DC-biased. Glenn's desktop-sized scanning system makes data acquisition and analysis easy. The system is controlled by user-friendly commercial software. The user has great control of the system, with the dimensions of the near-field scan area and the distance between grid points specified by the user. After each scan, the data analysis software processes the measurement data and displays the far-field radiation pattern of the AUT, computed from the near-field measurements. With minor modifications, the system can also be adapted for far-field measurements, as well as for diagnostic and imaging applications. In sum, Glenn's system provides antenna performance results in significantly less time than that required with other state-of-the-practice antenna ranges; permits operation by less skilled personnel; provides comprehensive visualization of data; and costs a fraction of the equipment associated with conventional methods.
Real-Time Tracking System
The innovation builds upon conventional UWB hardware by incorporating tracking methodology and algorithms in addition to external amplifiers for signal boost. The tracking methodology is a triangulation calculation consisting of Angle of Arrival (AOA) and Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) using a cross-correlation peak detection method. By directly estimating TDOA information from UWB pulses, the method achieves the high temporal resolution (on the order of picoseconds) needed to measure AOA with extreme precision. The system uses a PC to synchronize and process data in real time from two receivers, or clusters, to display the position of the transmitter-equipped person or object. The interface software enables the PC to access the two data sets simultaneously through separate sockets. In the data collection process, data segments from each receiver are interleaved with those from the other receiver in chronological order of collection. Within the PC, the data segments are stored in a separate buffer; therefore, the contents of the buffers are representations of the same UWB pulse waveform arriving at the two receivers at approximately the same time. This data synchronization provides the separate and simultaneous collection of waveform data that the tracking algorithm requires for accurate real-time tracking.
High/Low Temperature Contactless RF Probes
The design and operation of NASA Glenn's contactless RF probing systems relies on strong electromagnetic coupling that takes place between two different microwave transmission lines oriented in close proximity, but not in contact with each other to ensure high thermal isolation. In addition, the two transmission lines could be either similar or dissimilar and realized on substrates with different dielectric constants. Further, the substrates could be planar or non-planar and conformal to the surface of a sensor. In the case of dissimilar transmission lines, one of the transmission lines could be a printed circuit media while the other could be a metal waveguide or a dielectric waveguide. Glenn researchers have reported the first ever contactless RF probing of microwave circuits up to 200°C.
NanoWire Glass Switch for Radio Frequency
The nanoionic-based switches developed by NASA's Glenn Research Center exploit the properties of some amorphous materials that can incorporate relatively large amounts of metal and behave as solid electrolytes. As with liquid electrolytes found in lead-acid batteries, for example, solid electrolytes consist of mobile ions which undergo oxidation/reduction reactions at the anode and cathode of the system. The ionic conductivity of such a material can be of the same order of magnitude as the electronic conductivity of a semiconductor but without the drawbacks of an electromechanical device. In the nanoionic switch, ions are formed at an anode and migrate into the solid electrolyte, while electrons are injected from a cathode, thereby causing the growth of metal nanowires through the electrolyte from the cathode to the corresponding anode when a positive DC bias is applied. Once a nanowire has grown sufficiently to form an electrically conductive path between the electrodes, the switch is closed and no electric power is needed to maintain the connection, unlike in a MEMS or semiconductor-based switch. Moreover, the process of making the connection can easily be reversed by applying a negative bias, causing the wires to ungrow and the switch to open. Thus, NASA's state-of-the-art device is a reversible electrochemical switch that can have geometric features as small as nanometers. The process time for making or breaking the connection is very brief -- about a nanosecond. In addition, this nanoionic material can be deposited in such a way to form multilayer control circuits, which has the potential to minimize circuit footprints, reduce overall circuit losses, and provide unprecedented ease of integration.
RFID-Based Rotary Position Sensor
The RFID-Based Rotary Position Sensor was designed for use in a hand-crank dispenser with a circular disc inside the dispenser box containing a plurality of RFID integrated circuits (ICs) around the disc's periphery. An antenna is coupled to the crank on the outside of the box, which allows a user to turn the disc and dispense items. An RFID interrogator, coupled to a processor, determines the orientation of the crank based on the RFID ICs, providing information about the rotation angle of the internal disc which can then be used to assess level of material remaining in the dispenser. This sensor can be useful for items that are too small to tag individually (e.g., pharmaceutical pills), but there are various potential applications for the sensor system including use in limit switches, position sensors, and orientation sensors. The configuration of the RFID ICs and antenna can be tailored for specific applications. For example, the system could be used in a rack-and-pinion gear system to measure the rotational or angular displacement that arises from a linear force. Furthermore, the system could be incorporated into a rotary controller to refine the rotation angle of a rotating system, like a steering systemor rotor, for example. NASA's RFID-Based Rotary Position Sensor is at a TRL 6 (system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment) when used in its original application as part of a hand-crank dispenser system. For additional applications that have not been explored by NASA, the invention is at a TRL 4 (component and/or breadboard validation in a laboratory environment).
Wearable RFID Sensor Tags Yield Extended Operational Times
This technology exploits the inherently passive nature of RFID to approximate the services provided by traditional active Internet of Things (IOT) protocols like ZigBee and Bluetooth. A novel store-and-forward overlay on COTS RFID protocols allows an RFID active tags to transit through an ecosystem of RFID interrogators, exploiting contact opportunities as they arise and quietly transfers sensor readings at nearly no power cost to the RFID active tag. Specific intelligence built into both the interrogator and the tag leverages the RFID tag user memory (UM) as a stand-in IOT interface. The tag operates by sampling data into timestamped packets and loads them into tag memory. When an interrogator in the ecosystem realizes that a tag is in view and that there is unrecovered data on the tag, it takes custody of the sensor data packet and offloads the data into a database. A smart scheduler reads from the population of interrogators and schedules data transfers for specific tags when an interrogator can seed the custody transfer process for the data packets. NASA has produced working prototypes of wearables, worn by the crew aboard the International Space Station, that reports humidity, temperature and CO2 readings. In one estimate, the battery life is on pace to last an estimated nine years. The Low-Power RFID to Collect and Store Data From Many Moving Wearable Sensors 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 and develop into a commercial product. Please note that NASA does not manufacture products itself for commercial sale.