Endevco licenses NASA technology for new silicon carbide pressure sensors | Automation.com

Endevco licenses NASA technology for new silicon carbide pressure sensors

December 12, 2007 - Endevco Corporation, the leader in sensing solutions for demanding vibration, shock and pressure applications, has announced the licensing of three patents covering high-temperature, harsh-environment silicon carbide (SiC) pressure sensors from NASA’s Glenn Research Center. An Endevco silicon-based accelerometer was used to validate the initial NASA design in 2000.

The NASA technologies licensed by Endevco include a packaging technique and chip fabrication methods developed by a team led by Dr. Robert Okojie at Glenn for use in aircraft engine combustion chambers. SiC pressure sensors manufactured using these new processes can be used to improve testing of jet engines, in deep well drilling (where pressure and temperature rise as drilling depth increases), and in automobile combustion cylinders.

"The transfer of technology to industry is a significant part of NASA's heritage and charter," said Kathleen Needham, Chief of the Technology Transfer and Partnerships Office at NASA Glenn. “We actively seek companies such as Endevco that have the ability and desire to bring NASA innovations to market."

Silicon carbide used for the new NASA technologies, rather than the traditional silicon, eliminates the need for cooling. The current generation of SiC-based pressure sensors has been demonstrated to operate for 130 hours at 600 degrees C in air, making them durable and reliable for use for the first time in engine ground testing and short duration flight test instrumentation.

According to Okojie, "Operation at high temperatures allows the SiC pressure sensors to be located in closer proximity to the sensed environment than conventional silicon-based sensors, which must be isolated or protected in a water-cooled, controlled environment. Placing the sensor closer to the environment provides more reliable measurements. Additionally, its lighter weight due to absence of water-cooling plumbing makes the device less complex, relatively inexpensive, and reduces the tear-down cycle for engine maintenance. Its light weight and reduced complexity also lead to less engine weight for flight vehicles, hence improved fuel efficiency."

In 2000 Glenn used an Endevco silicon-based accelerometer as the benchmark to validate the NASA Glenn SiC high-g accelerometer. Tests showed the NASA device operated as well as the Endevco benchmark device, but at higher temperatures. This initial result led to discussions between Endevco and Glenn about licensing opportunities to acquire Glenn’s SiC pressure and accelerometer sensor fabrication and packaging technologies.

As NASA’s development of these new methods progressed, Endevco became interested in licensing the technology. After numerous visits to Glenn to evaluate the technology first-hand, a license to three patents was signed last month. Okojie will continue to work with Endevco to assist in overcoming any outstanding technical issues with the licensed technologies.

“The significant advantages of this innovation are very exciting,” said Endevco President Scott Silcock. “We are in the process of transferring the NASA SiC process into our MEMS manufacturing operation in Sunnyvale, with product availability for field testing in high-temperature applications targeted for late 2008. We have also formed partnerships with companies that have an immediate need for this breakthrough technology.”

In 2006, Endevco expanded both the size and technical capabilities of its micro electro mechanical systems wafer fabrication facility in order to add controls and equipment to support advanced designs and enable high temperature and harsh-environment products.

Endevco Corporation, a Meggitt group company, is one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of dynamic instrumentation for vibration, shock and pressure measurement. The company's comprehensive line of piezoelectric, piezoresistive, Isotron® and variable capacitance accelerometers are used to solve measurement problems in a wide variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, defense, medical, industrial and energy. Available products include pressure transducers, microphones, electronic instruments, and calibration systems. Founded in 1947 with headquarters in San Juan Capistrano, CA, Endevco has a global network of manufacturing and research facilities, sales offices and field engineers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Meggitt PLC, headquartered in the UK, is an international group operating in North America, Europe and Asia. Known for its specialist extreme environment engineering, Meggitt is a world leader in aerospace, defense and electronic industries.

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