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Physical Sensors Instrumentation Research at NASA Glenn

Physical Sensors Instrumentation Research at NASA Glenn

Two Columns


To advance knowledge in fundamental aeronautics and develop technologies for safer, lighter, quieter, and more fuel efficient aircraft, instrumentation technologies are being developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in support of its mission to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. These technologies also enable capabilities for long duration, more distant human spaceflight and robotic planetary missions.

Novel Thin Film Sensors

Developing Robust Thin Film Sensors with Ceramic, Laminate and Nanostructured Materials onto Complex Components

Multilayered Ceramic Sensor.

A Multilayered ceramic sensor for reading multiple parameters in extereme environments. Credit: NASA GRC.

The Smart Sensing and Electronics Systems Branch of the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) has an in-house effort to develop thin film sensors for surface measurement in propulsion system research. The sensors include those for strain, temperature, heat flux and surface flow, which will enable critical vehicle health monitoring and characterization of components of future space and air vehicles.

The need for sensors to operate in harsh environments is illustrated by the need for measurements in the turbine engine hot section. The degradation and damage that develops over time in hot section components can lead to catastrophic failure. Since it is difficult to model turbine blade temperatures, strains, etc, in the harsh hot section environments of turbine engines, actual measurements are needed.

The use of sensors made of thin films has several advantages over wire or foil sensors. Thin film sensors do not require special machining of the components on which they are mounted, and, with thicknesses less than 10 μm, they are considerably thinner than wire or foils.

Spray-on sensors with total thicknesses greater than 10 μm are believed to cause increased turbulence and heating of turbine components, thus causing erroneous measurements. Thin film sensors are much less disturbing to the operating environment, therefore having a minimal impact on the physical characteristics of the supporting components.

Most recently, GRC has been examining the application of conductive ceramic thin films for on-component sensors for characterizing new ceramic engine components. The need to consider ceramic sensing elements is brought about by the temperature limits of metal thin films in propulsion system applications. The application of low expansion ceramics in high temperature engine components also makes high expansion metals difficult to use at high temperatures.

Relevant Presentations [link opens new window]:
+ Download presentation given at JPC2014, Cleveland, Ohio, July 2014 [1.8 Mb].
+ Download presentation given at the 59th IIS, Cleveland, Ohio, May 2013 [0.6 Mb].
+ Download presentation given at JPC2009, Denver, Colorado, August 2009 [3.2 Mb].
+ Download overview given at 55th IIS, League City, Texas, June 2009 [2.3 Mb].
+ Download presentation given at Aging Aircraft 2008, Phoenix, Arizona, April 2008 [3.0 Mb].
+ Download presentation given at AeroMat 2007, Baltimore, Maryland, June 2007 [4.9 Mb].
+ Download overview given at 52nd IIS, Cleveland, Ohio, May 2006 [3.4 Mb].

Advanced Space Radiation Detectors

Miniaturizing Radiation Detector Technology

Silicon Carbide Dosimeter

Prototype SiC Dosimeter with dose integrating electronics. Credit: NASA GRC.

New instrumentation and sensing capabilities are required for pursuing NASA's commitment to a long-term robotic and human program to explore the solar system. NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) has the goal of developing unique, more compact radiation detectors that provide improved real-time data on space radiation.

NASA GRC has performed studies of different detector designs using a variety of combinations of solid-state detectors, which allow higher sensitivity to radiation in a smaller package and operate at lower voltage than traditional detectors. Integration of all of these detector technologies will result in improved detector systems in comparison to existing state-of-the-art (SOA) instruments for the detection and monitoring of the deep space radiation field.

The realization of these detectors leverages in-house GRC expertise and facilities in 1) harsh environment thin films, 2) silicon carbide (SiC) devices and harsh environment packaging, 3) micro-optics technology, and 4) structural radiation shielding materials. As mission needs change, the detector technology integration can be adapted quickly for performance and optimal science benefit.

Relevant Presentations [link opens new window]:
+ Download presentation given at the 30th AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites (SmallSats), Logan, Utah, August 2016 [1.6 Mb].
+ Download presentation given at the 2nd International Workshop on Instrumentation for Planetary Missions (IPM-2014), Greenbelt, Maryland, November 2014 [1.4 Mb].
+ Download presentation given at the 3rd International Workshop on LunarCubes, Palo Alto, California, November 2013 [1.4 Mb]. Watch a video of the presentation on YouTube.external link
+ Download presentation given at the 59th IIS, Cleveland, Ohio, May 2013 [1.2 Mb].
+ Download poster from IPM-2012 at NASA GSFC, October 2012 [2.7 Mb].
+ Download presentation from LEAG Conference on Lunar Exploration, League City, Texas, October 2005 [4.3 Mb].

Revolutionary Concepts

Short-Term Examinations of Potential Innovations

5-minute Exposure of Multibubble Sonoluminescence in Water.

Multibubble sonoluminescence in water imaged in a 5-minute exposure. Credit: NASA GRC.

Sonoluminescence has risen in the last decade to be a source of interest to those outside of the ultrasonic community in an effort to either understand the effect or to utilize some of its more interesting properties. The phenomena is defined as being the generation of light energy from sound waves, first discovered in the 1930's as a by-product of early work on sonar.

Originally thought to be a form of static electricity, this glow recently was found to be generated in extremely short duration flashes of much less than a billionth of a second by collapsing microscopic bubbles of air. The temperature generated in the collapsing bubbles is at least four times that of the surface of the sun.

NASA Glenn Research Center conducted an in-house examination of sonoluminescence for instrumentation and measurement technique development to formulate an application of the effect in its mission to enable safer, lighter, quieter, and more fuel efficient vehicles for aeronautics and space transportation & exploration.

Relevant Presentation [link opens new window]:
+ Download presentation given at JPC2007, Cincinnati, Ohio, July 2007 [6.9 Mb].

Tests conducted at NASA Glenn Research Center and elsewhere consistently showed evidence of anomalous heat during gaseous loading and unloading of deuterium into and out of bulk palladium. At one time called "cold fusion," now called "low-energy nuclear reactions" (LENR), such effects are now published in peer-reviewed journals and are gaining attention and mainstream respectability. The instrumentation expertise of NASA GRC was applied to improve the diagnostics for investigating the anomalous heat in LENR.

Relevant Presentation [link opens new window]:
+ Download presentation given at a IAPG MWG meeting, Arlington, VA, May 2012 [8.4 Mb].
+ Download presentation given at a LENR Workshop at NASA GRC, September 2011 [2.1 Mb].

Unlimited, unclassified, and publicly available NASA series reports and other publications are available on this site in PDF format and can be viewed with Adobe® Acrobat® Reader.external link Other related technical reports can be found by searching the NASA Technical Report Server

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NASA GRC was built in 1941 on the parking lot for the Cleveland Air Races. The wooden grandstand stood on the current site of the Hangar.

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