NASA Tech Needs

Heat Seal Solutions for Flexible Film

An organization seeks one or more bonding agents that can be dispersed into water. When the bonding agents are coated onto a PET film and dried, the coated film should adhere to and seal items made from rigid PE (polyethylene), PP (polypropylene), PS (polystyrene), PVC (polyvinylchloride), and PET (polyester). The same agent does not need to bond all five materials. One possible solution may be a material that has both a polar group to bond to PET and a non-polar group that can bond to other substrates.

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Fast-Cooking Pasta

A large manufacturer of consumer products needs an innovative process to make fast-cooking pasta. Cooking time should be reduced by at least 70%, and thickness/texture of the dry product must be the same as that of the reference shape. Ingredients should be suitable for human consumption. The reduction of cooking time and eventual temperature represents not only a clear advantage for a “time-starving” consumer, but also a lower energy consumption of the cooking process, which reduces impact on the environment.

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Diagnostic Indicators on Consumer Packaging

Low-cost, flexible diagnostic indicators must be incorporated onto consumer product packaging. The main focus of the technology should be the diagnosis of bad breath; a printable diagnostic strip on a tube of toothpaste, for example, may be a possible solution for quickly identifying halitosis. The client wants to provide the consumer with a disposable tool to selfdiagnose at point of sale. Solutions could be diagnostics that detect one or multiple states, and could include tests for breath, saliva, sweat, urine, skin cells, and tongue scraping.

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Graphene as Filler for Thermoplastic Nanocomposites

To save costs and reduce weight, a company is exploring graphene as a filler for thermoplastic resins. Work to date has shown that graphene dispersion is generally poor in thermoplastics, leading to less than optimal reinforcement properties and darker color. The manufacturer is specifically interested in the reinforcement properties of graphene in polyethylene and polypropylene. Potential solution proposals must include the source of the material, the matrix they are dispersing into, the level of transparency and color, and some measure of mechanical reinforcement.

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High-Temperature Seals for Non-Nuclear Test Facility

The United States National Research Council (NRC) has identified Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) as a high-priority NASA Space Technology Roadmap Area. NTP could be an enabling technology to reduce transit time and mission risk to Near-Earth Objects, Mars, and other deep space destinations. Nuclear power and propulsion technologies are key enabling technologies for future NASA exploration missions. The goal for Stennis Space Center is to investigate the technologies that would be required in the potential development of a Nuclear Propulsion and Power Nonnuclear (NP2N) test facility to provide component- and system-level ground testing of the NTP systems during the development and certification phases of their lifecycle.

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Sterilizable Applicator for Pre-Mixed Liquid Formulation

An organization needs an inexpensive device to deliver a pre-measured amount of liquid evenly to a surface. The applicator is intended for a single use, must be able to be sterilized after final assembly, and needs to hold enough liquid or gel to cover about 1 to 3 square feet of surface completely. The user’s hands cannot touch either the liquid or the surface to which the liquid is being applied. The design should also be scalable so that units delivering as little as 3 mL can be manufactured.

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Force-Feedback Mechanism

A torque-feedback mechanism must measure force, pressure, and displacement. The hybrid system or multi-part assembly requires haptic, visual, sound, temperature, or vibration feedback instruments. The technology may take the form of either a standalone sensor cube that flashes according to pressure, or a material that changes behavior, color, or texture. The technology must also be recyclable and sustainable for the environment. No battery is needed; energy harvesting should be possible from vibration, force, and solar power.

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Creation of Novel Optical Effects

A client seeks transformative technologies that will enable a variety of optical effects or hidden messaging to be created directly onto consumer products and its packaging. Reversible effects that are triggered by external stimuli, such as water (hydrochromic) and light (photochromic), are of interest. Solutions may include novel inks, transformative (phase change) materials, innovative labeling systems, liquid crystals, or holographic imaging. The product must be nontoxic, and should ideally enable multiple colors and effects.

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Reduction of Plastics Used in Packaging

An organization must reduce the amount of plastic resin used in packaging, while maintaining the package’s structural integrity and functionality through the supply chain. It may be possible, for example, to inject air bubbles into plastic resin in such a way as to maintain container size, shape, and strength. Mold-in structural members may also be used to decrease weight and material use, while preserving packaging functionality. The client seeks compatibility with blow-molding technologies, but is open to injection-molding options if they result in a solution that provides lower cost and/or resin content.

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Oxygen Barrier Materials for Improving Food/Beverage Shelf Life

An organization would like to increase the oxygen barrier in thermoplastic elastomers by an order of magnitude or more to preserve the shelf life of food/beverages. This organization is seeking an order-of-magnitude improvement in oxygen blocking, without a substantial increase in cost. This improvement may be achieved by a new material, by ingredients mixed with the current formulas, or by using additives with the mix. Regulatory approvals and organoleptic issues (flavor/odor/color effects) are also concerns.

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