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 .
Self-Advancing, Step-Tap Drill Bit
Johnson Space Center has invented a self-advancing, step-tap drill bit. Originally developed for space shuttle repair, the novel, stepped drill bit features a cutting edge that concurrently enlarges a hole as it cuts threads — a feature not available in other stepped drill bits. The drill bit advances itself into the work material similar to a screw, eliminating the need to apply external axial force. This unique technology greatly improves the safety and efficiency of handheld drilling while reducing operator fatigue, making it ideal for high-volume and heavy-duty construction applications and home shop use.
Johnson Space Center Technology
High-Load, Fully Retained, Dynamic Cryogenic Seal
Marshall Space Flight Center’s mechanical seal design has pressure-energizing capability, a stable yet high preload, and is suitable for use in extremely cold temperatures. Designed for both radial and piston-type dynamic cryogenic applications, the seal consists of metallic inner and outer retaining rings that securely capture a Teflon® polymeric ring. This unique design allows the Teflon to expand and contract in changing temperatures at rates similar to the parent materials. The seal could be used in any commercial cryogenic fluid system, and would work well in both dynamic and static applications.
Marshall Space Flight Center
Technology Transfer Office
Method of Improving a Digital Image
Currently, the visual quality of images is poor for scenes with lighting variations such as shadows, and when color shifts in illumination occur, as in photos taken at sunset. NASA Langley Research Center has developed a digital image enhancement method called Retinex. The Retinex method is an automatic, general-purpose algorithm that greatly improves the visual realism, quantity, and quality of perceived information in the digital image. This innovative technology enables an entirely new level of visual realism and visual quality in digital imaging, and does so with the ease, low cost, and speed of automatic operation.