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 .
Low-Density, Flexible Ablators
Ames Research Center has developed low-density, flexible ablators that can be fabricated into heatshields capable of being packaged, stowed, and deployed in space. This flexible Thermal Protection System (TPS) can be used to cover and thermally protect a large, blunt shape that provides aerodynamic drag during hypervelocity atmospheric flight. It can be used with minimal modification for large aeroshells whose deployment relies mainly on mechanical means and through inflation. Applications include systems engineering, thermal protection systems, materials engineering, and mechanical engineering.
Contact: Ames Research Center
Lighting System to Improve Circadian Rhythm Control
Kennedy Space Center developed a programmable solid-state general illumination fixture with full intensity and color temperature control. This new lighting assembly uses a microcontroller with power relay to adjust color temperature and perceived intensity to simulate a practical diurnal cycle. The Lighting System to Improve Circadian Rhythm Control was designed and built to help regulate the sleep cycles of astronauts working on the International Space Station (ISS) and during long-duration spaceflight. On Earth, this technology can be used to help treat jet lag, shift work sleep disorder, and non-24-hour sleep/wake disorder (frequently affects those who are totally blind).
Contact: Kennedy Space Center
Biomarker Sensor Arrays for Microfluidics Applications
A method to manufacture biomarker sensor arrays with nanoscale resolution and active regions on the order of 1 micron was developed at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The technique applies nanolithographic direct-write techniques to the fabrication of silane chemistry sensors on a transparent substrate. This novel technology enables extremely fine patterns of detectors suitable for multicolor imaging of single-molecule samples at resolutions far below the diffraction limit. The extremely small size of these sensors allows for rapid, highly specific screening for hundreds of functionalities within a single, small, integrated microfluidics chip.