3D Printing Industry reports on a recent announcement made by NASA. Apparently, the space agency is allotting $2 million for a project involving the creation of 3D printed multifunctional sensors. NASA’s Associate Branch Head of the Systems Engineering at the Maryland-based Goddard Space Flight Center, Mahmooda Sultana, will oversee the project.
As Sultana explains: “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.”
This comes in the wake of Sultana’s team’s work last year, wherein they “developed multifunctional sensors using the Nanoscale Offset Printing System (NanoOPS) developed at Northeastern University by Professor Ahmed Busnaina and his team. These sensors were made of various nanomaterials including graphene and carbon nanotubes.”
As Sultana elaborates: “the sensors were found to be quite sensitive, down to low parts per million. With ECI we are targeting parts per billion sensitivity by improving sensor design and structure.”
Now, with this added funding, “Sultana’s team will be specifically looking to develop smaller spectrometers. Used to measure properties of light over the electromagnetic spectrum, spectrometers are a useful tool for identifying materials. Such devices are used in astronomy to understand the composition of stars and planets. Currently, spectroscopy devices are generally too large to be easily transported to space.”
“The NanoOPS technology works differently from other nano 3D printing technologies…which is a photo curing process. In contrast, NanoOPS dips a substrate wafer with a template into a well of nanomaterial. The nanoparticles stick to the template when an electrical charge is applied, and the material is built up layer by layer this way. The process is known as electrophoresis.”
Sultana concludes: “The beauty of our concept [involves the ability] 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…This is truly a multifunctional sensor platform. All my sensors are on the same chip, printed one after another in layers…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.”
Image and Quotes Courtesy of NASA and 3D Printing Industry