NASA Spinoff

Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Compact, Robust Chips Integrate Optical Functions

People often think of NASA’s research as pushing the boundaries of our universe—sending people, robots, and spacecraft into the dark reaches of the sky. But as NASA studies the universe, one of the most important planets it explores is Earth. Through a series of...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Fuel Cell Stations Automate Processes, Catalyst Testing

Since the early days of space flight, fuel cells have provided an important source of power for extended missions to space. Aboard the space shuttle, three fuel cell power plants generate all of the electrical power from launch through landing.

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Onboard Systems Record Unique Videos of Space Missions

It was one of the few times that a crash landing would be deemed a success. On October 9, 2009, nine sensor instruments—including five cameras—onboard the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) watched closely as the Moon-bound spacecraft...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Space Research Results Purify Semiconductor Materials

While President Obama’s news that NASA would encourage private companies to develop vehicles to take NASA into space may have come as a surprise to some, NASA has always encouraged private companies to invest in space. More than two decades ago, NASA established...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Toolkits Control Motion of Complex Robotics

That space is a hazardous environment for humans is common knowledge. Even beyond the obvious lack of air and gravity, the extreme temperatures and exposure to radiation make the human exploration of space a complicated and risky endeavor. The conditions of space and the space...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Advanced Sensors Boost Optical Communication, Imaging

In 1992, on a gravity assist flyby of Earth that would help propel it along its mission to Jupiter, NASA’s Galileo probe detected a line of light pulses emerging from Earth’s night-darkened hemisphere. Over the next few days, Galileo’s camera imaged similar signals—even though the...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Tensile Fabrics Enhance Architecture Around the World

On a Friday night in March 2008, fans at a college basketball game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome noticed the stadium’s scoreboard begin to sway. Outside, winds howled through the city. Unknown to those in the stadium, a tornado was ripping through downtown. The safety of the more than...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Thermoelectric Devices Cool, Power Electronics

More than 10 billion miles away from Earth, a NASA spacecraft continues a journey that began in 1977. Having long since accomplished its original mission to Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object from Earth, hurtling at more than 38,000 miles per hour toward the...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Robust Light Filters Support Powerful Imaging Devices

Consider the anatomy of a rainbow: From the inner arch, violet shifts to blue, then green, yellow, and red. Contained in the rainbow is the spectrum of light that our eyes take in and translate into images of the world around us. But the human eye only registers a minute percentage of the...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Innovative Tools Advance Revolutionary Weld Technique

The iconic, orange external tank of the space shuttle launch system not only contains the fuel used by the shuttle’s main engines during liftoff but also comprises the shuttle’s “backbone,” supporting the space shuttle orbiter and solid rocket boosters. Given the tank’s...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Methods Reduce Cost, Enhance Quality of Nanotubes

For all the challenges posed by the microgravity conditions of space, weight is actually one of the more significant problems NASA faces in the development of the next generation of U.S. space vehicles. For the Agency’s Constellation Program, engineers at NASA centers are designing and...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Gauging Systems Monitor Cryogenic Liquids

Rocket fuel needs to stay cool—super cool, in fact. The ability to store gas propellants like liquid hydrogen and oxygen at cryogenic temperatures (below -243 °F) is crucial for space missions in order to reduce their volumes and allow their storage in smaller (and therefore, less costly) tanks....

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Voltage Sensors Monitor Harmful Static

Anyone who has ever experienced an unpleasant jolt from a doorknob after shuffling across the carpet on a dry morning knows that static electricity—also known as triboelectric charging—can be a nuisance. However, many computer enthusiasts are too familiar with how built-up triboelectricity can...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Compact Instruments Measure Heat Potential

Without the insulating protection of Earth’s atmosphere, orbiting space shuttles, space stations, and satellites are subject to thermal damage from radiation. This damage varies with different orbital parameters, solar activity, and the vehicle’s angle to the Sun, so these external surfaces...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
NASA Innovation Builds Better Nanotubes

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

One of the basic nanotechnology structures, the carbon nanotube, is a graphite sheet one atomic layer thick that is wrapped on itself to create an extraordinarily thin, strong tube. Although carbon nanotubes were discovered more than 15 years ago, their...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Polyimide Boosts High-Temperature Performance

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Polyimides are a class of polymers notable for chemical, wear, radiation, and temperature resistance, characteristics that have led to applications as diverse as aerospace engine housings and electronics packaging. Other applications include...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
NASA Design Strengthens Welds

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

The Welding Institute (TWI), a nonprofit professional organization based out of the United Kingdom and devoted to the industry of joining materials, engineering, and allied technologies, developed a novel form of welding in the 1990s. Friction stir welding (FSW),...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Portable Device Analyzes Rocks and Minerals

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Building on the success of the two rover geologists that arrived on Mars in January 2004, NASA’s next rover mission is being planned for travel to the Red Planet before the end of the decade. Twice as long and three times as heavy as the Mars...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Sensors Increase Productivity in Harsh Environments

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

A team of scientists at Glenn Research Center, operating under the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Aviation Safety and Fundamental Aeronautics programs, developed a series of technologies for testing aircraft engine combustion...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Novel Process Revolutionizes Welding Industry

Originating Technology/NASA Contribution

Deformation resistance welding (DRW) is a revolutionary welding process—a new technique for joining metals—in an industry that has not changed significantly in decades. Developed by the Energy and Chassis Division of the Detroit-based Delphi...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Open-Lattice Composite Design Strengthens Structures

NASA has invested considerable time and energy working with academia and private industry to develop new composite structures that are capable of standing up to the extreme conditions of space. Over time, such technology has evolved from traditional monocoque designs, in which the skin of a...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Ultra-Sensitive Photoreceiver Boosts Data Transmission

In June 2006, NASA scientists used extensive data transmitted from the Chandra X-ray Observatory deep space telescope to prove that up to 25 percent of the light illuminating the universe comes from the “massive crush of matter succumbing to the extreme gravity of black holes.”

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Micro Machining Enhances Precision Fabrication

In President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 State of the Union address, he announced plans for a U.S. space station, the equivalent of the Russian space station, Mir. This announcement set off a flurry of congressional funding debates, and it was not until 1988 that the President announced that a consensus...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Portable Hyperspectral Imaging Broadens Sensing Horizons

All objects reflect a certain amount of energy, even if it is just the electromagnetic energy created by the movement of electrically charged molecules. Measurements of these reflected energies, called spectra, can be used to create images of observed items and can thus serve to identify...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Hypersonic Composites Resist Extreme Heat and Stress

On October 14, 1947, Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager made history when he became the first pilot in an officially documented flight to ever break the sound barrier. Flying a Bell XS-1 test jet over the Mohave Desert, Yeager hit approximately 700 miles per hour, when a loud boom thundered...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Computational Modeling Develops Ultra-Hard Steel
Glenn Research Center’s Mechanical Components Branch routinely conducts research on transmissions and gearing for advanced gas turbines, promoting their safety, weight reduction, and reliability. The Mechanical Components Branch is staffed by both NASA and U.S. Army Research Laboratory employees,...
Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Thin, Light, Flexible Heaters Save Time and Energy

Ice accumulation is a serious safety hazard for aircraft. The presence of ice on airplane surfaces prevents the even flow of air, which increases drag and reduces lift. Ice on wings is especially dangerous during takeoff, when a sheet of ice the thickness of a compact disc can reduce lift by 25...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Novel Nanotube Manufacturing Streamlines Production

Nanotubes are sheets of graphite, one atom thick, rolled into seamless cylinders, with an exterior diameter in the range of nanometers. For a sense of perspective, if you were to split a human hair into 50,000 independent strands, a nanotube would be about the size of one of those strands.

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
‘NASA Invention of the Year’ Controls Noise and Vibration

Developed at NASA’s Langley Research Center, the Macro-Fiber Composite (MFC) is an innovative, low-cost piezoelectric device designed for controlling vibration, noise, and deflections in composite structural beams and panels. It was created for use on helicopter blades and...

Spinoff: Industrial Productivity & Manufacturing Technology
Thermoelectric Devices Advance Thermal Management

When NASA programs need the ultimate reliability to power deep space probes, they repeatedly select thermoelectric (TE) devices as a system component. TE devices heat, cool, and generate electricity when a temperature differential is provided between the two module faces. Using radioactive...