- Press Release
- August 12, 2022
NASA Selects its Commercial and Government Inventions of the Year
Headquarters, Washington, DC
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
It won’t be long before such diverse products as lipstick, art and circuit boards could
benefit from a thermoplastic developed for use in space. NASA thinks so much of the
thermoplastic’s commercial potential that it named the high-tech material its 1999
Commercial Invention of the Year. A research team from NASA’s Langley Research
Center, Hampton, VA, developed the winning invention.
The material offers protection from ultraviolet radiation as a coating for art and outdoor
statues. It promises UV protection as an additive to cosmetics and exterior paints. It offers
temperature-resistance when used in the form of solid components in electronic devices
like liquid crystal displays and in flexible, printed circuit boards.
Inventors Anne St. Clair, Terry St. Clair and Bill Winfree have been awarded four U.S.
patents on the material, which they call Colorless and Low Dielectric Polyimide Thin Film
Technology. R&D Magazine also selected the invention as one of the top 100 R&D
products for 1999. The technology has been licensed to SRS Technologies, Huntsville,
AL, and Triton Systems Inc., Chelmsford, MA.
Douglas B. Leviton, of the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate at NASA’s
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, will take home the NASA Government
Inventor of the Year Award for 1999. Leviton invented the Ultra-High Sensitivity,
Incremental and Absolute Optical Position Encoder.
These new position measuring encoders have enabled several space instruments to be
characterized more accurately and precisely than otherwise possible, in less time and at
far lower cost. These devices have many commercial applications, including robotics,
inspection equipment, coordinate-measuring equipment, profilometers, air-bearing
spindles, and surveying equipment.
The encoder’s innovative design offers a number of advantages including increased
reliability, compact form and higher sensitivity over what is commercially available. The
cost of the NASA-developed encoder is dramatically lower than its commercial
counterpart. The NASA encoder has been used in a variety of mission-critical NASA
metrology operations for the Hubble Space Telescope and the Earth Observing System
projects, which otherwise would have been technically unachievable or too expensive.
The inventors will be honored at a NASA Headquarters ceremony at which they will
receive an award check and certificate.