The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today.
This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. If you are interested in licensing the technologies described here, use the contact information provided. To learn about more available technologies, visit the NASA Technology Transfer Portal at https://technology.nasa.gov.
Tool Actuation and Force Feedback on Robot-Assisted Microsurgery System
Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a robot-assisted microsurgery (RAMS) system to allow surgeons to perform surgical procedures beyond the capability of human hand dexterity. A surgeon operating a RAMS system can feel soft tissues with greater sensitivity, and can manipulate surgical tools with greater exaggeration and precision. Each joint in the robot arm has a large range of motion, which reduces the chance of a joint reaching a limit during operation. The RAMS system also can be used as a simulator to train for these procedures.
Contact: Indrani Graczyk, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Monitoring Method and Apparatus
Stennis Space Center invented a monitoring system that includes a base station and at least one sensor unit mounted at some distance away that is in wireless, oneway communication with the base station. The sensor lies dormant until it receives a voltage trigger from a vibration-sensitive switch that consumes no stored power from the battery. When activated, the sensor takes a measurement, transmits the data to the base station, and then returns to its dormant state. The sensors can be used to monitor conditions that require long-term monitoring of events.
Contact: Stennis Space Center Office of the Chief Technologist
In-Situ Removal of PCBs from Sediment Systems
Kennedy Space Center has developed a novel method for the in-situ removal of PCBs found in sediment systems. The technology consists of a redeployable polymer blanket that attracts and absorbs PCBs. Researchers developed a two-step approach for removing and treating the PCBs. Step one involves placing a unique polymer blanket filled with an environmentally green solvent (e.g., ethanol) into the contaminated sediment. Projecting into the sediment, the blanket’s spikes attract PCBs through the polymer into the solvent until equilibrium is achieved. Step two consists of removing the blanket from the sediment, followed by extracting the PCB-laden solvent from the blanket. Following extraction, the solvent is treated ex-situ using a derivative of a NASA PCB treatment technology to break down the PCBs into benign byproducts. The blanket can then be decontaminated, refilled with fresh solvent, and deployed again.