NASA’s smart cloth research

“Smart” clothes that can cool and heat and a new superfilter that will make drinking water safer are two commercial results of space technologies developed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center recently recognized by the U.S. Space Foundation.

The patented technologies are among those named to the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame for 2005. Established in 1988 jointly by NASA and the Space Foundation, the Space Technology Hall of Fame honors technologies developed for space which have found commercial applications. Each year, technologies are nominated and go through a rigorous selection process before final selection and induction.

Both JSC technologies honored this year were funded by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research and the Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Those programs provide opportunities for small companies and research institutions to partner with NASA for research and development.

Smart Fabric Technology by Outlast Technologies, Inc., of Boulder, Colo., was honored for a fabric first developed for potential use in spacesuits. The goal was to create a material to better protect astronauts from the bitter cold and searing heat of space. The technology impregnates the fabric with microencapsulated paraffin wax that chemically reacts to counteract high or low body temperatures. The millions of microcapsules recycle stored energy by absorbing and releasing excess body heat. If a person is cold, the material becomes warm. If the person is hot, the material cools. It is being used commercially in gloves, boots, jackets and bedding.

NanoCeram® Superfilter by Argonide Corp., of Sanford, Fla., was honored for a new filter that uses strands of fiber one-quarter of a millionth of the size of a human hair. The filter technology was developed from NASA’s work on advanced water recovery systems, systems designed to recycle wastewater on a spacecraft into potable water.

The nanoceramic filter is made up of nanofibers — fibers so small that it takes more than 250,000 to equal the thickness of one strand of hair — that attract and retain bacteria, viruses and other biological hazards. In 2002, the NanoCeram Superfilter was recognized as one of the top 100 most technologically significant new products by R & D Magazine. Although nanoceramic filters are not yet used in space, NASA has teamed with the Environmental Protection Agency which will implement the filters in removing arsenic from drinking water. The new technology also may be used in chromatography, the filtration of DNA, RNA and endotoxins, and in the sterilization of pharmaceuticals and medical serums.

“These are cutting edge technologies, things that seem like science fiction but are now in commercial use, improving lives on Earth,” said Dr. Kumar Krishen, chief technologist and manager of the small business programs at JSC. “The development of innovative technologies like this is needed to enable the vision for space exploration to return to the moon and travel beyond.” For more about NASA’s small business research and technology

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Credit : NASA