Air Resources Laboratory (ARL)

ARL's research focus is on the surface of the Earth from one meter below the soil up to 2,000 meters in the atmosphere (aka the boundary layer). ARL studies the physical and chemical, short- and long-term processes that occur in the boundary layer. Primary applications include emergency response, homeland security, air quality, weather forecasts and climate outlooks, and commerce and transportation. The accidental or intentional release of chemical, biological, or nuclear agents, as well as ash associated with volcanic eruptions, can have significant health, safety, national security, economic, and ecological implications. ARL's Atmospheric Dispersion Research Program provides critical modeling and observation data to understand how, where, and when chemicals and materials are transported through the atmosphere.

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL)

GFDL is focused on long-lead-time research that is fundamental to advancing the scientific understanding of the physical, dynamical, chemical, and biogeochemical processes governing the behavior of the atmosphere, oceans, land, and ice components and their interactions with the ecosystem. Scientists at GFDL develop and use Earth system models and computer simulations to improve understanding and prediction of all aspects of the climate system. GFDL's research encompasses a variety of disciplines including meteorology, oceanography, hydrology, classical physics, fluid dynamics, chemistry, applied mathematics, and numerical analysis.


Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometers. These instruments, commonly used in analytical chemistry, contain a region where ions travel toward a detector. NOAA developed a new geometry that has improved performance over existing designs. The new innovation uses two successive sectors, with the second one reversed, in a geometry resembling an “s.” The result is that the entire geometry folds into a very compact volume.

NOAA's GOES satellites deliver data daily, powering forecast models, watches, and warnings for all types of weather and environmental conditions. This image shows Hurricane Dorian making landfall over Cape Hatteras, NC in September 2019. NOAA's GOES East captured this view of the Category 1 storm just 15 minutes before the center of the storm moved across the barrier islands.

Man Overboard Recovery Device. A man overboard (MOB) situation occurs when a person unintentionally enters the water from a boat. MOBs are either active and capable of physically assisting in their own rescue or those who are incapacitated and are unable to assist in their own rescue. NOAA developed a sling that allows a single rescuer to attach a lifting harness to an unresponsive victim who is unable to assist in their own rescue. The device does not require the rescuer to enter the water to assist the victim. A lifting sling, constructed of nylon webbing similar to automotive seatbelt material, and a section of rope are attached to a wishbone-shaped Y at the end of a long handle. During a rescue, the sling is attached to the victim and detached from the Y and handle. The rope is then attached to a lifting device on the rescue vessel, such as a block and tackle, to hoist the victim onto the vessel.

NOAA's DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft features excellent external visibility for harsh environments. (Photo: Ens. B.J. Bonner/NOAA)

Continuous Light Absorption Photometer. Absorption of sunlight by atmospheric aerosols is important to Earth's energy budget. There are several different types of instruments used for this measurement but none were optimized for making long-term, research-quality measurements. NOAA developed the Continuous Light Absorption Photometer (CLAP) that is temperature-stabilized to reduce sensitivity to changes in room temperature. In addition, the computer software running on the internal microprocessor is completely open on the CLAP. These features make the CLAP much better suited for long-term monitoring applications and currently, NOAA-built CLAPs are deployed at 23 stations around the globe.

ONav and GeoPixel™ Web-Based Navigation. ONav is a heads-up navigation display for pilots for coastal imagery acquisition. The system is built on the Linux operating system and uses open-source tools and data sources. The system combines a real-time Global Positioning System (GPS) and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) stream along with image collection metadata from the onboard cameras to generate vector overlays pilots can use to easily navigate, track progress, and ensure full coverage of the survey area.

The GeoPixel imaging system is used with ONav and displays a grid of Ground Control Points (GCP) over the visible image. GeoPixel tracks the movement of the cursor over the image to display the calculated position in three-dimensional space.

Oscillating/Tidal Biological Filtration System. This system is inexpensive, simple to set up, scalable, and self-cleaning. The biological treatment of wastewater is typically accomplished through a combination of mechanical filtration, which removes solid waste, and biological filtration, which uses bacteria to break down harmful ammonia. Separate aeration devices are also needed to introduce atmospheric oxygen into the system. Filtration and aeration systems currently on the market require frequent cleaning and maintenance to perform well. The NOAA Biological Filter uses the principles of hydrodynamics and biochemistry to create a single system to improve the water quality of any existing aqueous environment. This dual function eliminates the need for an additional aerator to complete the biochemical process.

Smart Module for Communications Processing and Interface. This data collection and reporting system is used on data buoys or similar ocean- or land-based platforms where environmental data are being collected. The module may be retrofitted to a data buoy, weather station, or other similar applications to add additional data acquisition capabilities or features without disturbing existing communications and data logging equipment at the location.

Technology Transfer

The Technology Transfer Program is responsible for NOAA's portfolio of innovations including patents, patent license agreements, and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). The goal is to ensure a rapid and cost-effective transfer of NOAA's technologies from the lab to U.S. industry for direct use and/or commercialization.

Companies interested in licensing a NOAA technology may contact the NOAA Technology Partnerships Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit here .

Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.