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Physical Sensors

Innovative harsh environment physical sensing and instrumentation technologies are being developed by NASA Glenn Research Center to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.

Novel Thin Film Sensors

Developing Robust Thin Film Sensors with Ceramic, Laminate and Nanostructured Materials onto Complex Components

Multilayered Ceramic Sensor
A Multilayered ceramic sensor for reading multiple parameters in extereme environments. Credit: NASA GRC.

NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) has an in-house effort to develop thin film sensors for surface measurement in propulsion system research. The sensors include those for strain, temperature, heat flux and surface flow, which will enable critical vehicle health monitoring and characterization of components of future space and air vehicles.  This technology can also be applied to characterize the harsh envrionments on planetary surfaces.

The use of sensors made of thin films has several advantages over wire or foil sensors. Thin film sensors do not require special machining of the components on which they are mounted, and, with thicknesses less than 10 μm, they are considerably thinner than wire, foils, or spray-on sensors.  Thin film sensors are much less disturbing to the operating environment, therefore having a minimal impact on the physical characteristics of the supporting components.


Development of a Venus Surface Wind SensorCleveland, OHMay 2022NTRS

NESC Academy

Design and operation of a fast, thin-film thermocouple probe on a turbine engineCleveland, OHJuly 2014NTRS
Thin Film Heat Flux Sensors: Design and MethodologyCleveland, OHMay 2013NTRS
Novel Thin Film Sensor Technology for Turbine Engine Hot Section ComponentsBaltimore, MDJune 2007NTRS
Thin Film Ceramic Strain Sensor Development for Harsh EnvironmentsTulsa, OKMay 2007NTRS

Technology Portfolio

High-Temperature-Thin-Film-Sensor High-Temperature Thin Film Multifunctional Sensor

A microfabricated thin-film sensor to measure multiple parameters in high-temperature aerospace environments that is minimally intrusive to the system.

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Thin Film Heat Flux Sensor Thin-Film Heat Flux Sensor (Improved Design)

A new design for a thin film heat flux sensor utilizing a Wheatstone bridge is easier to fabricate, has a larger signal, and is more easily scalable than previous designs.

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emperature Probe for Measuring up to 2400 °C Temperature Probe for Measuring up to 2400 °C

This technology is for a probe that uses multi-wavelengths to measure very high temperatures, from 1380 °C up to 2400 °C. The ability to withstand higher temperatures and oxidizing atmospheres translates into extended lifetimes even during operation in less severe conditions.

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Thin Film Air Mass Flow Sensor  Thin Film Air Mass Flow Sensor

This technology uses thin film resistance temperature detectors in a bridge arrangement to measure air mass flow rate with minimal disruption of the flow.

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High-Temperature Thin-Film Strain Gauges High-Temperature Thin-Film Strain Gauges

The NASA Glenn Research Center has developed high-temperature thin-film strain gauges, which are miniature and deposited directly on the test articles. These sputter-deposited thin-film resistance strain gauges can provide minimally intrusive surface strain measurements in the temperature range from ambient up to 1100 °C.

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Thin Film Heat Flux Sensor Thin Film Heat Flux Sensor

The thin film heat flux sensors, being developed at NASA Glenn Research Center, are fabricated as a plug-type sensor on the surface of a ceramic material. They can also be fabricated directly on the surface of a part such as a turbine blade.

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Physical Sensors Instrumentation Research

John D. Wrbanek

Intelligent Systems

Dr. Gary Hunter

The NASA Glenn Research Center is interested in partnering with companies that can develop these technologies into commercial products. If you are interested in learning more about partnering with NASA, please contact the Technology Transfer & Partnership Office.


Development of a Venus Surface Wind Sensor Based on a Miniature Drag-Force AnemometerWrbanek, John, Fralick, Gustave, Hunter, Gary, Meredith, Roger, Sprouse, Mark, Fausnaugh, Andrew, Chen, LiangYu, Gonzalez, José, and Phillips, KyleNASA TM-20205007616 October 2020NTRS
Long-duration Venus lander for seismic and atmospheric scienceKremic, T., Ghail, R., Gilmore, M., Hunter, G., Kiefer, W., Limaye, S., Pauken, M., Tolbert, C. and Wilson, C.Planetary and Space Science, 190, 104961October 2020DOI
Long-Lived In-Situ Solar System Explorer (LLISSE): Potential Contributions to the Next Decade of Solar System ExplorationKremic, Tibor, Hunter, Gary W.VEXAG Annual Meeting 2019November 2019NTRS
Design and operation of a fast, thin-film thermocouple probe on a turbine engine.Meredith, Roger D., Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C., Greer, Lawrence C., Hunter, Gary W., Chen, LiangyuAIAA 2014-3923July 2014DOI
A Review of Exhaust Gas Temperature Sensing Techniques for Modern Turbine Engine ControlsVon Moll, Alexander, Behbahani, Alireza R., Fralick, Gustave C., Wrbanek, John D. and Hunter, Gary W. AIAA 2014-3977July 2014DOI
Optical Strain and Crack-Detection Measurements on a Rotating Disk.Woike, Mark R., Abudl-Aziz, Ali, Clem, Michelle and Fralick, Gustave C.NASA TM-2013-216523June 2013NTRS
Ceramic Thin Film Thermocouples for SiC-based Ceramic Matrix Composites.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C., Zhu, DongminThin Solid Films, 5801-58062012DOI
Investigation of a Moire Based Crack Detection Technique for Propulsion Health Monitoring.Woike, Mark R., Abudl-Aziz, Ali, Fralick, Gustave C., Wrbanek, John D.NASA TM-2012-217622June 2012NTRS
Thin Film Heat Flux Sensor Development for Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) Systems.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C., Hunter, Gary W., Zhu, Dongming, Laster, Kimala L., Gonzalez, José M. and Gregory, Otto J.NASA TM-2010-216216, AIAA-2009-5066March 2010NTRS
Fabrication and Testing of a Thin-Film Heat Flux Sensor for a Stirling Convertor.Wilson, Scott D., Fralick, Gus C., Wrbanek, John D. and Sayir, AliNASA TM-2010-216063, AIAA-2009-4581January 2010NTRS
Thin Film Ceramic Strain Sensor Development for High Temperature Environments.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C., Gonzalez, José M. and Laster, Kimala L.NASA TM 2008-215256Jun 2008NTRS
Preparation and Characterization of High Temperature Thermoelectrics Based on Metal/Oxide Nanocomposites.Gregory, Otto J., Chen, Ximing, Fralick, Gustave C. and Wrbanek, JohnIn Thermoelectric Power Generation, edited by T.P. Hogan, J. Yang, R. Funahashi, and T. Tritt (Mater. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. Volume 1044, Warrendale, PA, 2007), 1044-U07-04.2007DOI
Thin Film Heat Flux Sensor for Measuring Film Coefficient of Rubber Components of Rolling Tire.Assaad, M.C., Kimble, B., Huang, Y.M., Burgan, R., Fralick, G.C., Wrbanek, J.D. and Gonzalez, J.M.In Proceedings of the 26th Annual Meeting and Conference on Tire Science and Technology (The Tire Society, Akron, OH).September 25-26, 2007DOI
Development of Techniques to Investigate Sonoluminescence as a Source of Energy Harvesting.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C. and Wrbanek, Susan Y.NASA TM-2007-214982, AIAA-2007-5596October 2007NTRS
High Temperature Electronics, Communications and Supporting Technologies for Venus Missions.Hunter, G.W., Okojie, R.S., Neudeck, P.G., Beheim, G.M., Ponchak, G.E., Fralick, G., Wrbanek, J., Kraskowski, M., Spry, D. and Chen, L.Y.In 5th International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW5) (Bordeaux, France)June 25-29 2007
Thin Film Ceramic Strain Sensor Development for Harsh Environments: Interim Report on Identification of Candidate Thin Film Ceramics to Test for Viability for Static Strain Sensor Development.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C. and Hunter, Gary W.NASA TM-2006-214466December 2006NTRS
Thin Film Physical Sensor Instrumentation Research and Development at NASA Glenn Research Center.Wrbanek, John D. and Fralick, Gustave C.NASA TM-2006-214395, ISA# TP06IIS023September 2006NTRS
Developing Multilayer Thin Film Strain Sensors With High Thermal Stability.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C. and Gonzalez, José M.NASA TM-2006-214389, AIAA-2006-4580August 2006NTRS
Thermoelectric Properties of Ceramic Thin Film Thermocouples.Gregory, Otto J., Busch, Eike and Fralick, Gustave C.ISA# TP06IIS037May 2006
Nuclear size corrections to the energy levels of single-electron and -muon atoms.Deck, R.T., Amar, Jacques G. and Fralick, GustaveJ. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 38 2173-21862005
Preparation and Analysis of Platinum Thin Films for High Temperature Sensor Applications.Wrbanek, John D., and Laster, Kimala L.H.NASA TM-2005-213433January 2005NTRS
The Measurement of Performance of Combustors Using Passive Acoustic Methods: Additional Results.Norris, W., Kleppe, J., McPherson, D., Fralick, G.In 43rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit (Reno, NV) AIAA 2005-219January 10-13, 2005DOI
Development of Thin Film Ceramic Thermocouples For High Temperature Environments.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C., Farmer, Serene C., Sayir, Ali, Blaha, Charles A. and Gonzalez, José M.NASA TM-2004-213211, AIAA 2004-3549August 2004NTRS
The Measurement of Performance of Combustors Using Passive Acoustic Methods.Kleppe, J., Norris, W., McPherson, D., Fralick, G.In 42nd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit (Reno, NV) AIAA 2004-1046.January 5-8, 2004DOI
A Single Crystal SiC Plug-and-Play High Temperature Drag Force TransducerOkojie, R. S., Fralick, G. C., Saad, G. J., Blaha, C. A., Adamczyk, J. J. and Feiereisen, J. M.In Digest of Technical Papers for Transducers ’03: The 12th International Conference on Solid State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems (Boston, MA)400-403 (IEEE Catalog Number 03TH8664C)June 8-12, 2003DOI
A Multilayered Thin Film Insulator for Harsh Environments.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C., Blaha, Charles A., Busfield, A. Rachel, Thomas, Valarie D.NASA TM-2002-211873, AIAA-2002-3731September 2002DOI
Thin Film Heat Flux Sensor of Improved Design.Fralick, Gus, Wrbanek, John, Blaha, CharlesNASA TM-2002-211566September 2002NTRS
RQL Sector Rig Testing of SiC/SiC Combustor Liners.Verrilli, Michael J., Martin, Lisa C., Brewer, David N.NASA TM-2002-211509April 2002NTRS
An Innovative Flow-Measuring Device: Thermocouple Boundary Layer Rake.Hwang, Danny P., Fralick, Gustave C., Martin, Lisa C., Wrbanek, John D., Blaha, Charles A.NASA TM-2001-211161, AIAA-2002-0289December 2001NTRS
Experimental Results of Schlicher's Thrusting Antenna.Fralick, Gustave C. and Niedra, Janis M.NASA TM-2001-211207, AIAA-2001-3657November 2001NTRS
Thin Film Sensors for Surface Measurements.Martin, Lisa C., Wrbanek, John D. and Fralick, Gustave C.NASA TM-2001-211149September 2001NTRS
Microfabricated chemical sensors for space health monitoring applicationsHunter, G.W., Neudeck, P.G., Fralick, G., Makel, D., Liu, C.C., Ward, B., Wu, Q.H., Thomas, V., Hall, G.In AIAA Space 2001 Conference and Exposition (Albuquerque, NM,) AIAA-2001-4689Aug. 28-30, 2001DOI
A Thin Film Multifunction Sensor for Harsh Environments.Wrbanek, John D., Fralick, Gustave C., Martin, Lisa C., Blaha Charles A.NASA TM-2001-211075July 2001NTRS
Temperature Measurement of Beryllia Ceramic Surface in the Presence of Reflected Extraneous Radiation Using a Multiwavelength Pyrometer.Ng, Daniel and Fralick, GustaveNASA TM-2001-210891May 2001
High Temperature Gas Measurements in Combustors Using Acoustic Pyrometry Methods.Kleppe, John, Fradali, S., Lappolla, M.H., Fralick, G.E.ISA# TP01AERO4505May 2001
Use of a multiwavelength pyrometer in several elevated temperature aerospace applications.Ng, Daniel and Fralick, GustaveReview of Scientific Instruments 72(2) 1522-1530Februaury 2001NTRS
Durability Evaluation of a Thin Film Sensor System With Enhanced Lead Wire Attachments on SiC/SiC Ceramic Matrix Composites.Lei, Jih-Fen, Kiser, J. Douglas, Singh, Mrityunjay, Cuy, Mike, Blaha, Charles A. and Androjna, DragoNASA TM-2000-209917 June 1999NTRS
Pyrometric Gas and Surface Temperature Measurements.Fralick, Gustave and Ng, DanielNASA TM-1999-209059March 1999NTRS
Temperature Measurement of Ceramic Materials Using a Multiwavelength Pyrometer.Ng, Daniel and Fralick, GustaveNASA TM-1999-208850January 1999NTRS
Advances in Thin Film Thermocouple Durability Under High Temperature and Pressure Testing Conditions.Martin, Lisa C., Fralick, Gustave C., Taylor, Keith F.NASA TM-1999-208812January 1999NTRS
La(1-x)SrxCoO3 for thin film thermocouple applications.Bhatt, Hemanshu D., Vedula, Ramakrishna, Desu, Seshu B., Fralick, Gustave C.Thin Solid Films 350 pp. 249-2571999DOI
Heat Transfer Analysis of a Plug-Type Heat Flux Gauge.Rooke, S., Fralick, G., Liebert, C.Journal of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer 12 (4) 536-542Oct-Dec 1998DOI
Thin film TiC/TaC thermocouples.Bhatt, Hemanshu D., Vedula, Ramakrishna, Desu, Seshu B., Fralick, Gustave C.Thin Solid Films 342  pp. 214-2201999DOI
The application of acoustic pyrometry to gas turbines and jet engines.Kleppe, J.A., Sanchez, J., Fralick, G.C.In 34th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit (Cleveland, OH) AIAA-1998-3611July 13-15, 1998DOI
The Propulsion Instrumentation Working Group – Introduction and discussion of subteam activities.Anderson, Robert, Atkinson, William, Bonsett Tom, and Osani, Joe20th Advanced Measurement and Ground Testing Technology Conference (Albuquerque, NM) AIAA-1998-2774June 15-18, 1998DOI
Thin-film thermocouples and strain-gauge technologies for engine applications.Lei, Jih-Fen and Will, Herbert A.Sensors and Actuators A 65 , pp. 187-1931998DOI
Steady-State and Frequency Response of a Thin-Film Heat Flux Gauge.Cho, C.S., Fralick, G.C., Bhatt, H.D.Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 34 (6) 792-798Nov-Dec 1997NTRS
Attachment of Free Filament Thermocouples for Temperature Measurements on CMC.Lei, Jih-Fen, Cuy, Michael D., Wnuk, Stephen P.NASA TM-107488June 1997NTRS
Advances in Thin Film Sensor Technologies for Engine Applications.Lei, Jih-Fen, Martin, Lisa C., Will, Herbert A.NASA TM-107418June 1997NTRS
Use of Drag Probe in Supersonic Flow.Richard, J.C. and Fralick, G. C.AIAA Journal 34 (1) 201-2031996DOI
Replication of the Apparent Excess Heat Effect in a Light Water-Potassium Carbonate-Nickel Electrolytic Cell.Niedra, Janis M., Myers, Ira T., Fralick, Gustave C. and Baldwin, Richard S.NASA TM-107167February 1996NTRS
Mulltiwire thermocouples in reversing flow.Forney, L.J. and Fralick, G.C.Review of Scientific Instruments 66 (l0) 5050-5054October 1995NTRS
Three-wire thermocouple: Frequency response in constant flow.Forney, L.J. and Fralick, G.C.Review of Scientific Instruments 66 (5) () 3331-3336May 1995NTRS
Applications of Thin Film Thermocouples for Surface Temperature Measurement.Martin, Lisa C. and Holanda, RaymondASA TM-106714August 1994NTRS
Heat Flux Measurements on Ceramics With Thin Film Thermocouples.Holanda, Raymond, Anderson, Robert C., Liebert, Curt H.NASA TM-106305November 1993NTRS
Frequency response of a supported thermocouple wire: Effects of axial conduction.Fralick, G.C. and Forney, L.J.Review of Scientific Instruments 64 (ll) 3236-3244November 1993NTRS
Dynamic Gas Temperature Measurements Using a Personal Computer for Data Acquisition and Reduction.Fralick, Gustave C., Oberle, Lawrence G., Greer III, Lawrence C.NASA TM-106119April 1993NTRS
Development of Thin Film Thermocouples on Ceramic Materials for Advanced Propulsion System Applications.Holanda, RaymondNASA TM-106017February 1993NTRS
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