NASA Tech Needs

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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New Shipping Alternatives for Liquid and Granular Materials

Liquids and granular materials can often be of high weight and mass. A firm seeks new shipping alternatives to handle both kinds of material. Alternative means of shipping product, inter-plant, between plant and distributor, to the retailer, and ultimately to the consumer are required. Ideally, the new shipping alternatives would result in less packaging, less costly packaging, and greener (more environmental and sustainable) packaging. A possible example is substituting paper packaging for plastic.

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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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Dust Mitigation Connectors for Electrical Cables and Fluid Lines

Faults in wiring systems are a serious concern for the aerospace and aeronautic (commercial, military, and civil) industries. Circuit failures and vehicle accidents have occurred and have been attributed to faulty wiring created by open and/or short circuits. Often, such circuit failures occur due to vibration during vehicle launch or operation.

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Materials that Form Mesh-Based Sheets

Materials exist that provide optical clarity, but the fabricmaking process drives the costs too high. A company seeks cost-effective materials and technologies that will form meshbased sheets exhibiting high optical clarity and low haze. The resulting sheet/film/fabric will also be evaluated based on cost effectiveness of production (material and process), the ability to be processed in current machines, and water diffusion. The material must be food-grade and flexible, and it should have a pore/mesh size no greater than 200 microns.

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Packaging Defect Detection

Consumers desire dent-free packages and properly affixed labels on 3D rigid packaging. A client seeks an automated system that will check the quality of these labels, and will detect, measure, and record critical information. The detection procedure will inform changes in processes, materials, or equipment to reduce or eliminate the imperfections. Such technology would first be applied for off-line lab tests, and then ideally be scaled for use in an online packaging system; the system will require real-time monitoring during packaging production. The equipment must detect defects as small as 2 mm.

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