Technologies

Hundreds of technologies developed at Glenn have been patented and offered for licensing; about 90 technologies have been spun off into commercial products since 2000. Here are just a few.

Advanced hydrogen and hydrocarbon gas sensors were developed that are capable of detecting leaks, monitoring emissions, and providing in-situ measurements of gas composition and pressure. These compact, rugged sensors can be used to optimize combustion and lower emissions, and are designed to withstand harsh, high-temperature environments. Some of the sensors, based on silicon carbide, can operate at 600 °C.

Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) are materials that can be deformed at low temperature and recover their original shape upon heating. Glenn is working to develop new alloys that can operate up to ~300 °C, compared to ~80 °C for commercially available alloys. The SMAs are used in actuators, heat detection devices, medical devices, automotive, aeronautics, and the military.

A new generation of silicon carbide (SiC) logic and mixed signal integrated circuits (ICs) were developed that are unprecedented in the field of high-temperature electronics. Previously, SiC ICs could not withstand more than a few hours of 500 °C temperatures before degrading or failing. The new ICs consistently exceed 1,000 hours of continuous operation at 500 °C. They will enable improvements in sensing, control, and operation of harsh-environment systems.

A polymer electrolyte-based ambient temperature oxygen microsensor allows fire, fuel leak, and personal protection monitoring in a variety of environments. Because it detects oxygen levels from 7 to 21% in nitrogen, it also enables environmental and personal health monitoring. The microsensor is small, simple to batch-fabricate, consumes little power, and operates in a wide humidity range.

Countless industries depend on chemical sensors for fast and accurate detection of carbon dioxide (CO2) to protect their workers and those who rely on their products or services. Glenn developed a state-of-the-art, solid-electrolyte-based microsensor for measuring concentrations of CO2 from 0.5 to 4%. While its predecessors typically operated only at high temperatures (600 °C), this microsensor operates at temperatures as low as 375 °C. Applications include fire detection, personal health monitoring, ventilation control, and automotive engines.

Glenn developed a game-changing, non-pneumatic tire called the Superelastic Tire that is the latest evolution of the Spring Tire, which was invented by Glenn and Goodyear. The novel use of shape memory alloys instead of typical elastic materials results in a tire that can withstand excessive deformation without permanent damage. It offers traction equal or superior to conventional pneumatic tires and eliminates both the possibility of puncture failures and running under-inflated.

Windows in buildings could be replaced with transparent aerogels that allow light transmission while remaining thermally insulating.

A subcutaneous structure imager locates veins in challenging patient populations such as juvenile, elderly, dark-skinned, or obese patients. The system includes a camera-processor-display apparatus and uses an image processing method to provide two- or three-dimensional, high-contrast visualization of veins or other vasculature structures. Compared to other solutions, the imager is inexpensive, compact, and very portable, so it can be used in remote third-world areas, emergency response situations, or military battlefields.

Machine vibration often originates with rotating components such as rotors, gears, bearings, and fans. Such vibration not only creates unwanted noise but can also be destructive to the machine. Originally designed to reduce helicopter cabin noise, Glenn developed a vibration ring that provides damping without disrupting the operation or position tolerance of the mechanical assembly. Besides reducing noise, it also reduces wear and tear and the ring can generate electrical energy to power sensors on rotating machine parts.

A new means of avoiding and mitigating icing events for aircraft flying above 14,000 feet dramatically improves aviation safety and reduces operating costs. Often undetectable with current radar, ice can accumulate, or accrete, in turbo-fan engines, causing serious engine operational problems and sometimes even catastrophic engine failures. Using a combination of sensors, engine system modeling, and compressor flow analysis code, Glenn's innovation performs real-time analysis to determine the potential of ice accretion, allowing pilots to avoid potential icing while using a more direct route than would otherwise be possible.

The modular architecture of Glenn's battery management system improves safety and reliability in electric/hybrid vehicles, uninterrupted power systems (UPS) for critical systems, utilities, and hospitals.

Glenn developed materials and methods to optimize the performance of nano-materials by making them tougher, more resistant, and easier to process. Glenn is improving all stages of nanomaterial production, from finding new ways to produce nanomaterials, to purifying them to work more effectively with advanced composites.

Glenn's portfolio of aerogels includes a new optically transparent polyimide aerogel — a low-density, highly porous, ultralight material derived from gels. The new aerogel maintains the robust nature of a polyimide network while providing the added feature of extremely high surface areas and uniform pore size and distribution. This unique combination of strength, transparency, and exceptional insulating properties makes the aerogels ideal for replacing windows, windshields, and more at a fraction of the weight and without the use of harmful or toxic chemical coatings.

Technology Transfer

For more information, contact Glenn's Technology Transfer Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 216-433-3484; or visit technology.grc.nasa.gov.