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.
Portable, Rapid, and Quiet Drill
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a handheld drilling device for a variety of drilling operations that is portable, rapid, and quiet. The drill is capable of effectively and efficiently drilling hard surfaces while remaining quiet enough to permit drill operation without the use of hearing protection. The device includes a housing, a piezoelectric transducer, a rotating motor component, and a rigid cutting end-effector. During use, the transducer operates at a frequency of about 25 kHz and a rotational speed of about 100 rpm, and the device imparts axial stresses of about 65 MPa with a noise level of about 45 decibels. Applications include covert military operations and late-night maintenance operations.
Contact: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Graphene Chemical Sensor
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a highly sensitive, low-power, graphene-based detector to sense trace gases and neutral atoms without having to ionize them. The Graphene Chemical Sensor chip measures roughly 1 × 1 cm and has an array of 10 sensor elements. The chip also has onchip temperature sensors and heaters to heat up the sensors, which resets them. Graphene is a two-dimensional crystalline material with the carbon atoms packed in a honeycomb lattice. It is not only the thinnest and lightest material, but also the strongest material ever measured. Graphene is radiation-hard and stable at extreme temperatures, making it ideal for many different applications.
Contact: Goddard Space Flight Center
Durable, Integrated Circuit Chips
NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed a revolutionary new generation of silicon carbide (SiC) integrated circuit (IC) chips. In the past, SiC ICs could not withstand more than a few hours of 500 °C temperatures before degrading or failing. The Glenn prototype chips can exceed 10,000 hours of continuous operation at 500 °C. The advanced performance stems from Glenn’s patented iridium interfacial stack (IrIS), a bondable metallization stack that prevents diffusion of oxygen and gold into silicon carbide (SiC) integrated circuits operating above 500 °C. Applications include aerospace, transportation, computers, and other high-temperature, harsh-environment applications.