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 http://technology.nasa.gov.
Conical Seat Shutoff Valve
Stennis Space Center developed a moveable valve for controlling flow of a pressurized working fluid. The valve consists of a hollow, moveable floating piston pressed against a stationary solid seat, and can use the working fluid or an external pressure source to seal the valve. This open/closed valve has a novel balanced piston so it can be designed to always seat with the same amount of force, allowing the use of metal-to-metal seats as well as soft seats. The valve, even when used with large, high-pressure applications, does not require large conventional valve actuators, and the valve stem itself is eliminated. Actuation is achieved with the use of small, simple solenoid or hand valves. The design reduces downtime and maintenance costs, while increasing valve reliability and seat life.
Contact: Stennis Space Center
Self-Healing Wire Insulation
Kennedy Space Center’s flexible, low-melt polyimide film features self-healing properties provided by embedded microcapsules containing a solvent-soluble polyimide. When cut or otherwise damaged, these capsules release their contents, which dissolve and heal the damaged area. Aerospace and ground vehicles often contain miles of high-performance electrical wire insulation that are prone to damage from abrasion and cuts during operation and maintenance. Large portions of the wire are often buried within the vehicle framework, making it difficult and timeconsuming to locate and repair damage. A self-healing capability in the wire insulation would provide self-repair of minor nicks, cuts, and abrasions without intervention by service personnel, and help reduce the danger of electrical shorts that could lead to sparking and fires.
Contact: Kennedy Space Center
Ames Research Center offers its patented ShuttleSCAN 3-D surface scanning and profiling technology. Originally developed for critical, real-time inspection of damage to the thermal protection tiles of the Space Shuttle, the system can be used for a wide range of commercial applications from product quality control to autonomous navigation. ShuttleSCAN provides real-time analysis of surfaces ranging from the small (such as circuit boards) to the large (such as panels or roads). The scanner’s operation is based on the principle of laser triangulation. ShuttleSCAN also can be used as a wireless instrument. The system scans at speeds greater than 600,000 points per second, with a resolution smaller than .001", and results are available in real time.