The objective of this NASA SBIR program is to develop wireless passive sensors for a variety of measurement applications. Wireless passive sensors are important because they will eliminate the volume, weight and time-consuming hand installation of bulky and heavy wire bundles that interconnect large numbers of sensors to centralized data analysis systems, and instead allow sensor networks to be interconnected wirelessly. The sensors consist of an additively manufactured matched dipole meanderline antenna, commercial radio frequency identification chips, and a representative strain and acoustic sensor NanoSonic has developed for demonstration purposes. The antennas will be designed using computational electromagnetic software codes and the designs turned into 1-bit bitmap files that will be used to drive a Dimatix Materials Printer. NanoSonic will use conductive inks it has developed through prior programs to print the antennas on DuPont polyimide Kapton substrates and achieve printed thin film conductivities near that of bulk copper. The circuitry of the chips and resistive sensor elements will be modeled in LTSpice and integrated with the balanced antenna. RF measurement hardware will be used to measure the insertion loss and S-parameters of the antennas. Wireless sensor demonstrations would be performed first inside NanoSonic’s indoor RF anechoic chamber and then in a mechanical testing lab on samples under strain in an Instron load frame. Additional wireless passive sensors will be demonstrated on representative metal, composite and deployable membrane and fabric materials. NanoSonic will work with the RF group in the Hume Center at Virginia Tech and with MoonPrint Solutions. Staff at NanoSonic, the Hume Center and MoonPrint Solutions have backgrounds in sensor development, RF antenna design and measurements, additive manufacturing processes, and deployable space materials and structures through academic, industrial and product manufacturing programs.
Sensors are important to terrestrial and space systems - they report on thermal, mechanical, chemical and biological conditions so astronauts or control systems can react to values. They eliminate the volume, weight and installation of heavy wire bundles that interconnect large numbers of sensors to data systems. Also, each sensor element operates without the need of supplied electrical power. This reduces the overall system power budget so lowers the need for power generation and storage.
Applications for developed technology include non-wired sensors for the nondestructive evaluation of materials and structures, use in industrial manufacturing systems and civil infrastructure. Developed additive manufacturing materials and techniques are applicable in the bottom-up rapid production of consumer goods with controlled material properties at lower cost and improved function.