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Phase I Small Business Awards Announced

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2006
NASA recently awarded Phase I contracts to 251 small businesses through the 2005 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

The research program encourages technological innovation among small businesses and increases their interaction with federal research and development projects. TRS Technologies Inc. of State College, Pa., was awarded $70,000 for a six-month project to develop a concept for microactuators for cryogenic deformable mirrors. Founded in 1991, the company works with piezoelectric material, has 36 employees and earns annual revenue of about $5 million.

According to Xiaoning Jiang, senior research scientist and principal investigator, it has been trying to get into the adaptive structures market, and this award will help it demonstrate unique actuation and membrane mirror concepts. If the technology works, Jiang said, the company will prototype a deformable mirror for NASA’s evaluation in Phase II.

DR Technologies Inc. of San Diego received two Phase I contracts related to the development of advanced solar array technologies for space power applications. In one of the projects, it will study the use of quantum dots to allow photovoltaic solar cells to convert more of the solar spectrum into electricity than is possible with today’s photovoltaic technology. The second program will evaluate new ways of manufacturing solar panels that are lower in cost, more efficient and electromagnetically clean. These contracts are helping the company diversify its business, which now focuses on composite structures design and manufacturing.

Phase II of the program moves concepts closer to commercialization in the private sector. The TRS deformable mirror technology, for example, offers dynamic wavefront correction at a broad temperature range, which could be useful on NASA missions. In addition, large-stroke, high-precision flextensional single-crystal microactuators may be used in fiber optic steering, microelectromechanical systems, microwave tuning and nanopositioning for photonics. DR Technologies is hoping that its proof of concept leads to a Phase II follow-on research contract for development of more efficient power systems for space satellites. It also hopes to use the results of these research programs to develop more efficient and cost-effective solar photovoltaic panels.
In Phase I of the 2005 program, NASA selected 335 proposals from the 2400 that were submitted by US-owned small businesses. Selected Small Business Innovation Research proposals may receive up to $70,000, and those for Small Business Technology Transfer grants may receive up to $100,000.


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