UpFront

NASA-Funded Project Investigates Deep-Sea Life

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing, CA, is using funding from organizations including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to develop the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), an electromechanical/ fluidic instrument that collects discrete water samples from the ocean subsurface. It concentrates microorganisms (particulates), and automates application of molecular probes to identify microorganisms and their gene products. The ESP also archives samples so that further analyses may be done after the instrument is recovered. NASA is considering how elements of the ESP might be useful in looking for life on other planets.

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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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2006 Product of the Year Winners

The 12th annual NASA Tech Briefs Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Awards were presented April 23rd at a special reception and dinner in New York City. See the June issue for photos and highlights of the awards presentation. Here are the top three winners, chosen by you, the readers of NTB:

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NASA Spinoff Keeps Drivers “Ice Free”

In the late 1990s, NASA Ames Research Center in California invented an anti-icing fluid that kept ice from building up on airplane wings. The fluid, when applied to a dry surface, prevented the ice from even forming a surface bond; if applied before ice formed, it served as a deicer. The formula contains propylene glycol, which has a very low freezing point, and a thickener that helps it adhere to the surface. Ice gathers on top of the surface, and can be wiped off with little effort.

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NASA Technology Provides Secure Networks for First Responders

In 2003, engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH, sent a miniature Cisco router into low Earth orbit on a satellite, proving that Internet Protocols can be used to communicate with satellites. “We wanted to put the Internet in space because it will make it far easier to design, build, test, and later operate new satellite systems,” said Phil Paulsen, project manager in Glenn’s Space Communications Office.

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NASA Spinoff Brings Nanotechnology to Market

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, licensed its patented technique for manufacturing high-quality, single-walled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to Idaho Space Materials (ISM) in Boise. Carbon nanotubes based on this process are being used by researchers and companies working on the next generation of composite polymers, metals, and ceramics that will impact almost every facet of life.

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NASA Uses Common CPUs for Radiation-Resistant Computers

EAFTC computers in a space-ready flight chassis. (NASA/Honeywell)Most space missions use radiation-hardened (rad-hard) computer chips to avoid glitches caused by space radiation. These chips contain extra transistors that take more energy to switch on and off, but they are also expensive, slow, and power-hungry. Using the same inexpensive Pentium and PowerPC chips found in consumer PCs would make spacecraft computers faster, but they wouldn’t be rad-hard.

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