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NASA Technology Sees the Light

Developed in the 1980s, the SunTiger sunlight-filtering lens sprung from research by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists James B. Stephens and Dr. Charles G. Miller. The two were studying the harmful properties of light in space, as well as the artificial radiation produced during laser and welding work, to create an enhanced means of eye protection for industrial welding. The two found previously discovered research showing evidence that the eyes of hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey contain unique oil droplets that actually protect them from intensely radiated light rays while allowing vision-enhancing light rays to pass through. These oil droplets absorb short-wavelength light rays, which, in turn, reduce glare and provide heightened color contrast and definition. They devised a way to incorporate these benefits into a filtering system, using lightfiltering dyes and tiny particles of zinc oxide.

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Eagle Eyes’ original product, the Aviator style, is the number-one choice of pilots and police officers.
Over three years, they created and commercialized a transparent welding curtain technology that absorbs, filters, and scatters light to maximize protection of human eyes during welding. They then turned their attention to protective glasses. What resulted was a spinoff of a spinoff: the SunTiger lens for every natural and artificial environment. SunTiger, Inc., of Calabasas, CA, was formed to market a full line of sunglasses that promised 100% elimination of harmful wavelengths and a sharp, crisp viewing perspective.

Over the past few years, the company, now doing business as Eagle Eye Optics, has extended its product line to over 40 styles of sunglasses that feature the company’s patented TriLenium Gold lenses with complete ultraviolet protection, dual-layer scratch-resistant coating, polarized filters for maximum protection against glare, and high visual clarity to make scenery more vivid.

The latest product is called StimuLights. Designed specifically for low-light environments, StimuLights can be worn outdoors while driving in hazy, foggy, dusk, and dawn conditions and indoors while working on computers under fluorescent lights, watching television, or reading in dimly lit areas. Special cut-on and cut-off filters in the lenses relax the eyes and provide improved clarity, definition, and color contrast under these conditions. The filters cut on to let the eyes receive useful, vision-enhancing light rays and cut off to prevent blue and violet light rays from entering and focusing on the retina. The ultraviolet light is blocked by the lenses, protecting the purple pigment in the eye, called rhodopsin, that promotes vision in low-light conditions. Lack of protection from rhodopsin leaching can lead to night blindness.

For more information on this and other NASA spinoffs, visit www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2006/ch_6.html.