A NASA technologist is taking miniaturization to the acute.
Mahmooda Sultana gained investment to enhance a doubtlessly innovative, nanomaterial-primarily based detector platform. The generation is able to sense the whole thing from minute concentrations of gases and vapor, atmospheric stress and temperature, after which transmitting that records via a wireless antenna — all from the identical self-contained platform that measures just two-via-3-inches in size.
Image Caption: Technologist Mahmooda Sultana holds an early new release of an independent multifunctional sensor platform, that may gain all of NASA’s foremost clinical disciplines and efforts to ship people to the Moon and Mars. Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk
Under a $2 million generation development award, Sultana and her group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will spend the following years advancing the self-sustaining multifunctional sensor platform. If successful the technology ought to advantage NASA’s most important science disciplines and efforts to ship human beings to the Moon and Mars. These tiny systems could be deployed on planetary rovers to stumble on small portions of water and methane, for instance, or be used as tracking or biological sensors to preserve astronaut fitness and safety.
Central to the effort, funded with the aid of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) Early Career Initiative (ECI) is a three-D printing machine developed by means of Ahmed Busnina and his institution at Northeastern University in Boston. The 3D printing system is like printers used to supply cash or newspapers. However, in preference to ink, the printer applies nanomaterials, layer-by way of-layer, onto a substrate to create tiny sensors. Ultimately, each is capable of detecting an exclusive fuel, pressure level or temperature.
Nanomaterials, along with carbon nanotubes, graphene, molybdenum disulfide, and others, showcase exciting physical houses. They are surprisingly sensitive and solid in severe situations. They also are light-weight, hardened in opposition to radiation and require less energy, making them ideal for area programs, Sultana said.
Under her partnership with Northeastern University, Sultana and her organization will design the sensor platform, determining which mixture of substances are high-quality for measuring minute, components-in step with-billion concentrations of water, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen — all important inside the search for lifestyles at some stage in the solar gadget. Using her layout, Northeastern University will then use its Nanoscale Offset Printing System to apply the nanomaterials. Once revealed, Sultana’s institution will functionalize the person sensors by way of depositing additional layers of nanoparticles to decorate their sensitivity, combine the sensors with readout electronics, and package the whole platform.
The method differs dramatically from how technologists presently fabricate multifunctional sensor structures. Instead of constructing one sensor at a time and then integrating it to different components, 3-d printing lets in technicians to print a suite of sensors on one platform, dramatically simplifying the combination and packaging technique.
Meet Mahmooda Sultana, Associate Branch Head, Systems Engineering Branch at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Mahmooda makes use of her love of math and puzzles to develop new technology and miniaturize gadgets for NASA missions.
Also revolutionary is Sultana’s plan to print at the equal silicon wafer partial circuitry for a wireless communications machine that might speak with ground controllers, in addition simplifying instrument layout and construction. Once published, the sensors and wi-fi antenna can be packaged onto a broadcast circuit board that holds the electronics, a power source, and the relaxation of the communications circuitry.
“The beauty of our concept is that we’re able to print all sensors and partial circuity on the identical substrate, which will be rigid or bendy. We get rid of quite a few the packaging and integration challenges,” Sultana stated. “This is actually a multifunctional sensor platform. All my sensors are on the same chip, published one after some other in layers.”
The research alternatives up wherein other NASA-funded efforts ended. Under numerous previous efforts funded by means of Goddard’s Internal Research and Development Program and STMD’s Center Innovation Fund, Sultana and her group used the equal technique to fabricate and show individual sensors made of carbon nanotubes and molybdenum disulfide, among different materials. “The sensors had been discovered to be quite sensitive, all the way down to low parts according to million. With our ECI funding, we’re focused on the device’s sensitivity to elements in line with billion by using enhancing sensor design and structure,” Sultana stated.
According to her, the challenge addresses NASA’s need for low-energy, small, lightweight, and enormously sensitive sensors which can distinguish crucial molecules other than through measuring loads of a molecule’s fragments, which is what number of missions presently locate molecules nowadays the use of mass spectrometers.
In truth, the company has mentioned that destiny sensors need to discover minute concentrations of gases and vapors within the elements consistent with a billion degrees. Although mass spectrometers can discover a wide spectrum of molecules — particularly useful for unknown samples — they have difficulty distinguishing among a number of the important species, along with water, methane, and ammonia. “It’s additionally hard to reach the components according to billion or beyond stage with them,” she stated.
“We’re in reality enthusiastic about the opportunities of this generation,” Sultana said. “With our investment, we will take this era to the following level and potentially offer NASA a brand new way to create customized, multifunctional sensor structures, which I trust ought to open the door to all types of mission concepts and makes use of. The equal approach we use to become aware of gases on a planetary body additionally could be used to create biological sensors that display astronaut fitness and the levels of contaminants inner spacecraft and living quarters.”