3ders.org – NASA Allocates $ 2 Million for Team Producing Tiny 3D Printed Sensors for Planetary Rovers



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February 18, 2019 | By Thomas

NASA-funded researchers will use 3D printing technology to print sensors and even a partial circuit for wireless communication on a single card measuring just two inches by three inches.

Mahmooda Sultana and her team at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, won a $ 2 million Technology Development Award to advance a platform of nanomaterials-based detectors that can detect anything what emerges and then transmit this data via a wireless antenna.

The initiative is expected to last 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 amounts of water and methane or serve as surveillance or biological sensors to maintain the health and safety of astronauts.

Nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, molybdenum disulfide and others, are extremely sensitive and stable under extreme conditions. They are also lightweight, radiation-hardened and require less energy, making them ideal for space applications. Current sensor manufacturing methods involve building one sensor at a time and then integrating it with other elements. 3D printing allows technicians to print a suite of sensors on a platform, which greatly simplifies 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, on a substrate to create tiny sensors. Sultana and his group will design the sensor platform, determining which combination of materials is best for measuring minute concentrations, in parts per billion, of water, ammonia, methane, and methane. hydrogen. With the help of its design, Northeastern University will then use its nanoscale offset printing system to apply nanomaterials. Once printed, the Sultana group will functionalize the individual sensors by depositing additional layers of nanoparticles to improve their sensitivity, integrating the sensors into a reading electronics and conditioning the entire platform.

Sultana's plan to print on the same silicon wafer partial circuit for a wireless communication system that would communicate with ground controllers is also innovative, further simplifying instrument design and construction. Once printed, the sensors and the wireless antenna will be integrated into a printed circuit board containing the electronics, a power source and the rest of the communication circuit.

"The beauty of our concept lies in the fact that we are able to print all the sensors and partial circuits on the same substrate, whether it is rigid or flexible." We eliminate a lot of the problems of Packaging, and integration, "said Sultana. "It's truly a multi-function sensor platform – all my sensors are on the same chip, printed one after the other in layers."

According to Sultana, the project meets NASA's need for low-power, small, lightweight, and highly sensitive sensors, capable of distinguishing important molecules otherwise than by measuring the masses of fragments of a molecule. This is how many missions are currently detecting molecules using mass spectrometers. .

"We are really excited about the possibilities of this technology," said Sultana. "With our funding, we can take this technology to the next level and potentially offer NASA a new way to create custom multi-function sensor platforms, which I believe could open the door to all types of The same approach we use to identify gases on a planetary body could also be used to create biological sensors that monitor the astronauts' health and contaminant levels inside of them. spacecraft and housing premises. "

Posted in 3D Print App

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