Photonics-based products win several Create the Future Design Contest categories

The 2016 NASA Tech Briefs Create the Future contest featured winning photonics technologies in several categories.

The 2016 NASA Tech BriefsCreate the Future Design Contest featured winning photonics products or technologies in several categories:

AEROSPACE & DEFENSE CATEGORY WINNER

The N5 FILO: An Ultra-Small, Low-Cost Hazardous Gas Detector Using Novel Chip-Scale Chemical Sensor Technology (N5 Sensors; Rockville, MD)

In this device, each microsensor is designed to detect a specific target gas using patent-pending photo-enabled sensing that combines the selective adsorption properties of multicomponent photocatalytic nanoclusters together with the sensitive transduction capability of microscale photoconductors of semiconducting gallium nitride (GaN). The sensitivity of the microsensors is tailored by the component of surface functionalization, which typically is either a metal-oxide, metal-oxide with metal, or a metal-oxide/metal-oxide combination. The sensors work at room-temperature using only a low-power, low-cost commercial UV light-emitting diode (LED) and the highly selective metal-oxide coating gives rise to the exceptional selectivity of these sensors.

ELECTRONICS CATEGORY WINNER

Real-Time Fiber Optic Sensing System (Armstrong Flight Research Center; Edwards, CA)

The fiber-optic sensing system (FOSS) offers unprecedented levels of spatial density, as each of the eight 40-foot hair-like optical fibers provides up to 2,000 data points with adjustable spatial resolution for a total of 16,000 sensors per system. To achieve these capabilities, FOSS uses fiber Bragg grating (FBG) sensors and a combination of optical frequency domain reflectometry (OFDR) for high spatial resolution and wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) for high acquisition speed, together with an interferometer technique that can simultaneously interrogate thousands of FBG sensors on a single fiber. Each of the 16,000 OFDR sensors can be sampled up to 100 samples per second while several dozen of these sensors can be sampled at rates up to 35,000 times per second for high dynamic range applications.

MEDICAL CATEGORY WINNER

Smart x-ray Source (Stellarray; Austin, TX)

The "Smart X-ray Source" combines flat panel display technology with classical x-ray physics for a new kind of flat panel x-ray source that will transform the way x-rays are used in numerous applications. "Smart" means the source has a large array of x-ray spots which can be electronically addressed in whatever sequence, intensity and pattern is programmed into the control computer. The spots are generated using e-beams from a cold cathode array formed on one side of the panel, which is mainly made of glass. The opposite side, however, is a flat metal anode, where the x-rays are generated, and this has one side facing in to the vacuum and one side facing out, where it can be directly cooled, meaning this source, in addition to being programmable, fast and compact, can also handle the high power loads needed in medical and other applications.

SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES CATEGORY WINNER

ECHY: Solar Lighting With Fiber Optics (Echy; Champs-sur-marne, Ile-de-france, France)

Artificial light is not only costly for us and for the environment, it prevents us from using a natural and abundant resource: sunlight. ECHY says it has the solution. Its technology captures, transports, and diffuses daylight inside of buildings, providing constant, high-quality lighting. A panel of Fresnel lenses, fixed on to a tracker, concentrates daylight. On each of the panels is fitted a concentration module (0.5 square meters); once concentrated, fiber-optic cables transport the light inside. The light is then diffused, using a bi-source lamp (solar and LED), so that in the case of insufficient sunlight, LEDs automatically take over. ECHY has also partnered with Philips to design a hybrid lighting system.

For the sake of completeness, non-photonics-based winning entries included:

GRAND PRIZE

Development of a Non-Surgical Circulatory Support Device for the Treatment of Chronic Heart Failure (Procyrion; Houston, TX)

AUTOMOTIVE/TRANSPORTATION CATEGORY WINNER

Smart Coating for Corrosion Detection and Prevention (Kennedy Space Center; FL)

CONSUMER PRODUCTS CATEGORY WINNER

Modular Jet Ski; No Trailer; Affordable; High Performance (Bomboard; Whitewater, WI)

MACHINERY/AUTOMATION/ROBOTICS CATEGORY WINNER

Compact Long-Reach Robotic Arm (Langley Research Center; Hampton, VA)

SOURCE:NASA Tech Briefs; http://contest.techbriefs.com/2015/winners

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