NASA’s scientists developed a solid lubricant coating material that is saving the manufacturing industry millions of dollars. Developed as a shaft coating to be deposited by thermal spraying to protect foil air bearings used in oil-free turbo machinery, like gas turbines, this advanced coating, PS300, was meant to be part of a larger project: an oil-free aircraft engine capable of operating at high temperatures with increased reliability, lowered weight, reduced maintenance, and increased power. PS300 improves efficiency, lowers friction, reduces emissions, and has been used by NASA in advanced aeropropulsion engines, refrigeration compressors, turbochargers, and hybrid electrical turbogenerators. ADMA Products has found wide-spread industrial applications for the material.
A new self-adjusting, retractable pin tool for friction stir welding is now used in the manufacturing of components for NASA Space Shuttles. The pin enhances NASA’s welding process and allows for stronger and more reliable welds on NASA’s Space Shuttle External Tanks. With this NASA technology, welding of higher strength alloys, as well as non-planer and variable thickness structures can be achieved. While the new technology currently being is utilized in the manufacturing of aerospace and aircraft frames, applications are projected for the defense industry and could be used to weld shut canisters used for the containment of radioactive waste.
A licensing agreement between NASA and M&A Screw and Machineworks has brought the quick-connect nut to the commercial market. Evolving from technology developed from Pathfinder, a project for developing in-space assembly techniques, the space-aged nut is installed by simply pushing it onto a standard bolt and giving it a quick quarter-turn to lock it in place. Applications for the nuts include oil drilling platforms, mining industry, and other practices that rely on speedy assembly for success.
Power Plant Design
The Computer Software Management and Information Center (COSMIC), NASA’s software dissemination facility, which routinely supplies to industry government-developed computer programs that have secondary utility, supplied the Calculating Water and Steam Properties (WASP) program, to the Kuljian Corporation which optimized the design of various power stations with special emphasis on heat balance in the steam turbine cycles. Other related innovations offering significant savings in analysis effort include software programs that identify high stress areas in valve products, as well as valve vibration analysis to establish design adequacy under severe conditions, such as an earthquake.
The Doppler Velocimeter (LDV) technology originally developed by NASA to measure airflow disturbances in wind and in flight was modified to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements when Raytheon adapted LDV technology to meet EPA’s need. The outcome was a Mobile Laser System that used an invisible laser beam, aimed from a van’s interior, to monitor smokestack plumes from as far away as 3,000 feet.
The Rapid ToolMaker, created with NASA funding and support, is a dual-use advanced technology with applications in both commercial and military aerospace fields. It provides cost savings in the design and manufacturing of automotive, electronic, and medical parts, as well as in other areas of consumer interest, such as jewelry and toys. For aerospace applications, the Rapid ToolMaker enables fabrication of high-quality turbine and compressor blades for jet engines on unmanned air vehicles, aircraft, and missiles. Significantly improving fabrication of 3-D prototypes, this process ensures layer uniformity, registration, and exact replication of a CAD design file. The completed prototype pattern is dimensionally accurate with a smooth surface finish, and is used directly for metal casting or mold forming.
NASA contracted with Intelligent Optical Systems (IOS) to develop moisture- and pH-sensitive sensors to warn of potentially dangerous corrosive conditions in aircraft before significant structural damage occurs. This new type of sensor, using a specially manufactured optical fiber whose entire length is chemically sensitive, changes color in response to contact with its target. After completing the work with NASA, IOS was tasked by DARPA and Department of Defense to further develop the sensors for detecting chemical warfare agents and potential threats, such as toxic industrial compounds and nerve agents, for which they proved just as successful. IOS has additionally sold the chemically sensitive fiber optic cables to major automotive and aerospace companies, who are finding a variety of uses for the devices such as aiding experimentation with nontraditional power sources, and as an economical “alarm system” for detecting chemical release in large facilities.
Improved Mine Safety
An ultrasonic bolt elongation monitor developed by a NASA scientist for testing tension and high pressure loads on bolts and fasteners has continued to evolve over the past three decades. Today, the same scientist and Luna Innovations, are using a digital adaptation of this same device for a plethora of different applications, including non-destructive evaluation of railroad ties, groundwater analysis, radiation dosimetry, and as a medical testing device to assess levels of internal swelling and pressure for patients suffering from intracranial pressure and compartment syndrome, a painful condition that results when pressure within muscles builds to dangerous levels. The applications for this device continue to expand.
Protective Cool Vests
ILC, Dover Division’s lightweight cooling garment, called Cool Vest was designed to eliminate the harmful effects of heat stress; increases tolerance time in hot environments by almost 300 percent. Made of urethane-coated nylon used in Apollo, it works to keep the body cool, circulating chilled water throughout the lining by means of a small battery-powered pump. A pocket houses the pump, battery and the coolant which can be ice or a frozen gel, a valve control allows temperature regulation. One version is self-contained and portable for unrestrained movement, another has an umbilical line attached to an external source of coolant, such as standard tap water, when extended mobility is not required. It is reported from customers that the Cool Vest pays for itself in increased productivity in very high temperatures.