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Detecting Superstrates Using Coplanar Waveguide
August 3, 2012

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Researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) have patented an instrument for detecting ice and other superstrates on or near a sensor, for example a layer of ice on a road, bridge, or airplane wing. The technology can identify the presence or absence of a superstrate, as well as its type. Unlike other methods, this innovation can be built to conform to the profile of the surface it is monitoring (such as an airplane wing) so that it will not affect the aerodynamic profile. The instrument is composed of a microstrip transmission line, a mounted substrate, multiple measurement cells within the transmission line, and a microwave transmitter/receiver for interrogating the sensor cells. The innovation can operate wirelessly and be miniaturized to the size of a quarter. JSC has received patent number 6,995,572 for this technology.


  • Effective: Detects the presence, absence, type, and thickness of superstrates on and near sensors
  • Economical: Provides a means of avoiding unnecessary deployment of hazardous or environmentally unfriendly materials (ethylene glycol sprayed on aircraft and sand/salt on roadways) when there is, in fact, no ice
  • Discriminating: Distinguishes between a variety of superstrates
  • Malleable: Features a sensor that conforms to the shape of the surface being monitored


  • Detecting ice on aircraft and roadways
  • Detecting solid residue buildup in oil pipelines
  • Detecting coatings of paint and oil in robotics and other machinery


Johnson Space Center has received patent protection (U.S. 6,985,606→) for this technology.

Licensing and Partnering Opportunity

This technology is being made available through JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to consider licensing this technology for commercial applications.

Contact Information

If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA's technology transfer program, please contact:

Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center
Phone: 281-483-3809
E-mail: jsc-techtran@mail.nasa.gov

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Page Last Updated: January 16th, 2014
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