Newswise — Fang Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at NYIT, is partnering with X-wave Innovations, Inc. (XII), a research and development firm specializing in the defense, homeland security, transportation, and energy fields, to develop an embedded sensor system for NASA that is capable of measuring temperature, pressure, and strain on various rocket propulsion engine components.

This technology is being developed as part of a project funded by a $125,000 NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant jointly awarded to Professor Li and XII, based in Gaithersburg, Md.  In this 12-month Phase I project, Li and XII will prototype an embedded sensor system and demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed technique for passive, wireless, multi-parameter high temperature measurements. NASA needs embedded sensor systems with wireless data communication capabilities for applications including ground testing, flight testing, and in-service monitoring. This embedded sensor system will provide a highly flexible instrumentation solution to monitor remote or inaccessible measurement locations for NASA's rocket propulsion test facilities.

This project is a hybrid product of passive Surface Acoustic Wave Radio Frequency Identification (SAW- RFID) technology and high-temperature piezoelectric materials and devices. Li, who joined NYIT School of Engineering and Computing Sciences in 2012, brings expertise in high-temperature piezoelectric materials and SAW sensors to this effort. XII brings expertise in SAW-RFID technology and system integration, and a commercialization strategy to transition the developed technology into NASA programs and the commercial sector.

According to Li, cost-effective and reliable assessment of the health of propulsion engine components in harsh, high-temperature environments is challenging for conventional sensors. This sensor system she is developing with her students consists of sensor tags and a RF interrogation system. The sensor tags are embedded in measured components, powered by an incident RF signal which requires no power supply or external circuits. Being passive, they are able to work in harsh environments that would destroy conventional electronics. The RF interrogation system remotely collects data from multiple sensors and converts data into values of temperature, pressure, and strain. “The maintenance free sensor system can operate for long periods, providing valuable data about the structural health and operation conditions of the engine components,” Li said.

Li, together with two NYIT Mechanical Engineering graduate students, will model, design, and develop passive SAW sensors for temperature, strain and pressure measurements. Sensors are being fabricated on the NYIT-Old Westbury campus, in its class 10,000 clean room, the first of its kind in Nassau County. NYIT's clean room, part of the school’s materials science and nanotechnology lab, houses a sputtering machine and microscopy tools that allow researchers to nano-engineer unique composite materials and create microchips, sensors, and implantable and wearable medical devices.

“Our mission is to provide high quality education and support faculty research and student learning in high-tech focus areas,” said Nada Marie Anid, Ph.D., dean, NYIT School of Engineering and Computing Sciences. “This prestigious NASA grant is a perfect example of collaboration between our faculty and industry on important technological advances. It offers a tremendous growth opportunity for both Professor Li and her students in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.”

Earlier this year, NASA announced its selection of 399 research and technology proposals from 277 American small businesses and 44 research institutions that will enable NASA's future missions into deep space, and advancements in aviation and science, while also benefiting the U.S. economy. Selected proposals will support the development of technologies in the areas of aeronautics, science, human exploration and operations, and space technology.

For the Phase I program, Li and XII will prototype an embedded sensor system. Phase I results will provide initial validation that the proposed technology can provide the required measurements. With a successful completion of Phase I, the program is very promising to get into Phase II, in which Li, her students, and XII will build the SAW-RFID system and demonstrate its capability to measure temperature, pressure, and strain in harsh environments.

About NYIT

NYIT (New York Institute of Technology) offers 90 degree programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, in more than 50 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has 10,000 students in programs and campuses in New York (Manhattan and Old Westbury, Long Island) and Arkansas as well as China, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. NYIT sponsors 13 NCAA Division II programs.

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