Invention of the Year

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2007 Award Winners

2007 Invention of the Year Winners
  • Rob Bryant, Langley Research Center Inventor
  • James High, Langley Research Center Inventor
  • Bruce Little, Langley Research Center Inventor
  • Keats Wilkie, US Army Research Laboratory Inventor
Also shown (at left): Jesse Midgett, ICB Chief Technologist; Lesa Roe, Langley Research Center Director.

Additional Langley Research Center Inventors not pictured: Richard Hellbaum, Paul Mirick, Antony Jalink, (deceased), Robert Fox (deceased).

Government Award Winner

Award Title:

PICA and SIRCA Low-Density Resin Impregnated Ceramics

Lead NASA Center:

Ames Research Center (ARC)

Award Category:


Case Number:



Artist concept of thermal protection systems and low-density resin impregnated ceramics on a reentry capsule

Artist concept of thermal protection systems and low-density resin impregnated ceramics on a reentry capsule.

It is a well-known fact that one of the toughest ongoing problems NASA has to deal with is the heat of entering a planet's atmosphere at sub-orbital speed. This patented suite of ceramic ablator technologies has been used on four missions to date, all with good success.

The innovation lies in the ability to tailor the density of thermal protection systems by forming woven fiber matrices. Resin is then deposited to the desired thickness on the fibers by controlling the evaporation of excess resin or carrier solvent from the article. This results in the appropriate resin coating thickness for each application. A later patent focuses on layered combinations of materials made using the above method.

The technology has been licensed and the nearly infinite combinations of fibers and resins that could be developed using this method should enable broad commercial, government and military applications.

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Commercial Award Winner

Award Title:

FPF-44 Polyimide Foams

Lead NASA Center:

Langley Research Center (LaRC)

Award Category:


Case Number:



This invention meets a growing need for high-performance flexible polymeric foams for cryogenic, thermal and acoustic insulation, fireproofing, energy absorption, and other applications. LaRC's Flexible Polyimide Foam is made from four ingredients and was invented by four people, hence the name FPF-44. This polyimide foam technology exceeds the performance of commercial foams that are currently used on the Space Shuttle External Tank, is more durable, lighter, and has a higher use temperature. FPF-44 is applicable to a wide range of industrial uses including flame retardants, fire protection, thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, gaskets, seals, vibration damping pads- virtually anywhere foam is currently used. The exceptional flame retardant nature of FPF-44 products can improve the safety of watercraft, aircraft, and spacecraft, electronics and electrical products, automobiles, recreation equipment, and buildings. Increased use includes hundreds of thousands of board feet purchased by the US Navy and Coast Guard for flame retardant ship insulation. The licensee/co-inventing company has had to increase production capability to meet the increased demand.

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Three properties of FPF-44 polyimide foams -- left to right: fire protection, flexibility, and ease of production

Above: Shown are three properties of FPF-44 polyimide foams.
From left to right: fire protection, flexibility, and ease of production.