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.
Spring Joint Package with Overstrain Sensor
Goddard Space Flight Center developed a flexible overstrain (OS) sensor joint that provides two degrees of freedom and a passive and restoring force that allows the joint to return to a default position. It is also proportional to the amount of lateral deflection the spring has undergone, allowing the sensor joint to be used in many of the under-constrained situations that cause universal joints to lock up. The invention can be used as a flexible joint replacement, and is beneficial for mechanical arms as well as prosthetic devices.
Contact: Goddard Technology Transfer Office
Membrane Tension Control
Langley Research Center offers electrostrictive polymeric materials that provide significant field-induced strain, high mechanical output force, and exceptional strain energy density. The polymers are conformable, lightweight, and durable. The processing system to fabricate these polymers is simple, and can be manipulated to control and optimize the materials’ mechanical and electrical properties. Applications include submarine sound signature variation by manipulating skin friction characteristics, changing airflow on aircraft structures, automobile sensors such as accelerometers, biomedical applications, and microrobotics.
Contact: Langley Research Center Technology Transfer Office
Filtering Water with Acoustics Nanotube Technology
Johnson Space Center developed a filtration device to eliminate contaminants from water supplies. Originally developed to purify wastewater for reuse aboard the International Space Station, the innovation is applicable to numerous situations on Earth where there is a need to collect potable, medical-grade water from a contaminated water supply. This water filtration innovation is an acoustically driven molecular sieve embedded with small-diameter carbon nanotubes. The technology pushes water away from contaminants, rather than removing contaminants from water. The combination of acoustics and small-diameter carbon nanotubes in this innovation make it an effective and efficient means of producing contaminant-free, clean water in medical facilities, municipal water facilities, and in wastewater treatment.