NASA Spinoff

In the same way that the inventions of steel in the 1800s and plastic in the 1900s sparked revolutions for industry, a new class of amorphous alloys is poised to redefine materials science as we know it in the 21st century.

Over 40 years ago, NASA developed Radiant Barrier technology to protect astronauts in the Apollo Program from temperatures that ranged from 250 °F above to 400 °F below zero Fahrenheit. This feat in temperature control technology enabled the astronauts to work inside the Apollo Command Module wearing short-sleeve shirts, with temperatures similar to those of a regular business office. The Radiant Barrier has been applied to virtually all spacecraft since then, including unmanned spacecraft with delicate instruments that need protection from temperature extremes. It is also applied to the astronauts space suits, protecting them during space walks.

Commonly referred to as artificial muscles, electroactive polymer (EAP) materials are lightweight strips of highly flexible plastic that bend or stretch when subjected to electric voltage. EAP materials may prove to be a substitution for conventional actuation components such as motors and gears. Since the materials behave similarly to biological muscles, this emerging technology has the potential to develop improved prosthetics and biologically-inspired robots, and may even one day replace damaged human muscles. The practical application of artificial muscles provides a challenge, however, since the material requires improved effectiveness and durability before it can fulfill its potenti

A revolutionary, low-calorie sugar is now available to the food and beverage market, offering an all-natural alternative to table sugar and artificial sweeteners. Tagatose, a sugar that appears in nature in small quantities, began its unusual journey to the commercial market nearly 30 years ago, when Dr. Gilbert V. Levin invented a life detection experiment to place aboard NASA's Mars Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers. The experiment involved using radiation-laced nutrients to determine the presence of microbial life in Martian soil samples.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Benjamin Dolgin of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed a concept for a high-damping graphite/viscoelastic material for the Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly referred to as Star Wars), as part of a space-based laser anti-missile program called Asterix. Dolgin drummed up this concept with the intention of stabilizing weapons launch platforms in space, where there is no solid ground to firmly support these structures. Without the inclusion of high-damping material, the orbital platforms were said to vibrate for 20 minutes after force was applied a rate deemed unacceptable by leaders of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

In the 1960s, NASA civil servant Tom Hughes worked for Marshall Space Flight Center's Quality Control Laboratory as a systems engineer. Reporting directly to Dr. Wernher von Braun, Marshall's first director, Hughes was assigned as a NASA representative for quality control at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, to oversee the Saturn V rocket project. During this time, Hughes invented several technologies to improve the safety of the rocket, earning several commendations from von Braun. He also gained technical expertise in microwave technology, as NASA researched it to determine its relationship to radar.

In 1988, NASA began working with private industry to develop thermally adaptive phase-change materials that could be applied to astronauts suits and gloves for better protection against the bitter cold and scorching heat encountered in space.

In the 1990s, NASA pioneered virtual reality research. The concept was present long before, but, prior to this, the technology did not exist to make a viable virtual reality system. Scientists had theories and ideas they knew that the concept had potential but the computers of the 1970s and 1980s were not fast enough, sensors were heavy and cumbersome, and people had difficulty blending fluidly with the machines. Scientists at Ames Research Center built upon the research of previous decades and put the necessary technology behind them, making the theories of virtual reality a reality.

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

On July 20, 1969, millions were glued to their television sets when NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong offered these famous words via live broadcast, upon becoming the first man to ever step foot on the Moon.

Every angler has his secrets, whether it be an old family recipe for stink bait, a midnight worm-hunting ritual, or the most coveted of all, the no-fail fishing hole. Most of these secrets are lore and legend, passed through generations, and coveted more than the family's best tableware. Each of these kernels of wisdom promises the fisherman a bite at the end of the line, but very few are rooted in fact and science.

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.