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NASA Patents Offer Potential Advances
Mar 2004
HOUSTON, March 18 -- An optical network innovation is among new patents developed at NASA's Johnson Space Center that are now available for licensing by private companies. Also up for grabs are methods to help advance human cell growth, kill prostate cancer cells with microwave energy and enhance pharmaceutical research.

Companies can license these technologies and collaborate with NASA on research and development. Thousands of space technologies have found their way into everyday life, from quartz timing crystals used on Apollo missions in the 1960s to smoke detectors developed in the 1970s for Skylab.

The optical network innovation centers on a unique optical switch, equipped with a polarizing beam splitter, and the use of spatial light modulators or liquid crystal devices.

"Traditional switches, which convert optical signals into electrical signals and vice versa to carry data, are limited," NASA said in a statement. "To overcome poor synchronization and low bandwidth, this innovation can be used to connect light from a single source to a number of destinations simultaneously. This process can also be reversed to speedy optical network interconnectivity," it said.

Expanding human applications of a NASA-developed system for cell culture growth that already is in commercial use is the focus of another patent. The bioreactor system allows the cultivation of 3-D cell cultures in a rotating vessel, simulating the way cells grow within the human body.

Also available: a technique to determine 3-D protein structure that may hold promise for pharmaceutical advances, and a patent for a computer simulator designed to predict a patient's temperature profile, an innovation that involves the use of microwave energy introduced via a catheter to heat and kill benign cancer cells in the prostate.

For more information, visit:

Johnson Space Centerliquid crystal devicesNASANews & Featuresoptical networkoptical switchpolarizing beam splitterSensors & Detectorsspatial light modulators

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