Feb 18, 2019 | By Thomas
Researchers funded by NASA will use 3D printing technology to print sensors and even a partial circuitry for wireless communication on a single board that measures just two-by-three-inches in size.
Mahmooda Sultana and her team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland won a $2 million technology development award to advance a nanomaterial-based detector platform which is capable of sensing everything from minute concentrations of gases and vapor, atmospheric pressure and temperature, and then transmitting that data via a wireless antenna.
The initiative is expected to take two years. If successful the technology could benefit NASA's efforts to send humans to the Moon and Mars. These tiny platforms could be deployed on planetary rovers to detect small quantities of water and methane or be used as monitoring or biological sensors to maintain astronaut health and safety.
Nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, molybdenum disulfide and others, are highly sensitive and stable at extreme conditions. They are also lightweight, hardened against radiation and require less power, making them ideal for space applications. Current sensor manufacturing methods involve building one sensor at a time and then integrating it to other elements. 3D printing allows technicians to print a suite of sensors on one platform, dramatically simplifying the integration and packaging process.
The 3D printing system, originally developed by Ahmed Busnina and his group at Northeastern University in Boston, applies nanomaterials, layer-by-layer, onto a substrate to create tiny sensors. Sultana and her group will design the sensor platform, determining which combination of materials are best for measuring minute, parts-per-billion concentrations of water, ammonia, methane and hydrogen. Using her design, Northeastern University will then use its Nanoscale Offset Printing System to apply the nanomaterials. Once printed, Sultana's group will functionalize the individual sensors by depositing additional layers of nanoparticles to enhance their sensitivity, integrate the sensors with readout electronics, and package the entire platform.
Also innovative is Sultana's plan to print on the same silicon wafer partial circuitry for a wireless communications system that would communicate with ground controllers, further simplifying instrument design and construction. Once printed, the sensors and wireless antenna will be packaged onto a printed circuit board that holds the electronics, a power source, and the rest of the communications circuitry.
"The beauty of our concept is that we're able to print all sensors and partial circuity on the same substrate, which could be rigid or flexible. We eliminate a lot of the packaging and integration challenges," Sultana said. "This is truly a multifunctional sensor platform. All my sensors are on same chip, printed one after another in layers."
According to Sultana, the project addresses NASA's need for low-power, small, lightweight, and highly sensitive sensors that can distinguish important molecules other than by measuring the masses of a molecule's fragments, which is how many missions currently detect molecules today using mass spectrometers.
"We're really excited about the possibilities of this technology," Sultana said. "With our funding, we can take this technology to the next level and potentially offer NASA a new way to create customized, multifunctional sensor platforms, which I believe could open the door to all types of mission concepts and uses. The same approach we use to identify gases on a planetary body also could be used to create biological sensors that monitor astronaut health and the levels of contaminants inside spacecraft and living quarters."
Posted in 3D Printing Application
Maybe you also like:
- FELIXprinters introduces large-format Pro L and Pro XL FFF/FDM 3D printers
- 3D bioprinted BioMask could quickly heal facial skin wounds
- 3Doodler App turns your smartphone screen into a 3D printing pen canvas
- Newcastle University researchers 3D bioprint artificial cornea with self-assembling 4D biomaterials
- Lamborghini uses Carbon 3D printing for production of auto parts at scale
- Daniel Harari invented and 3D printed an Active Strain Relief device for filament
- Naval Group and Centrale Nantes 3D print world's first hollow propeller blade
- University of Wollongong researchers use 3D printed visual aid to combat antibiotic resistance
- Stefan at CNC Kitchen experimenting with Smart Infill for stronger 3D prints
- Spaceflight company Orbex reveals new Prime rocket with 3D printed engine