By on October 17, 2011

Crains Cleveland reports that NASA will be offering some 38 technologies developed for its space program to the auto industry at a trade show next week at the Glenn Research Center. With 100 OEMs and suppliers attending, the event will bring materials and technologies chosen for their usefulness in automotive applications to an industry that is anxious to develop solutions for upcoming fuel economy standards. And hopefully bring some licensing fees to an agency that is anxious to find private sources of income. In the words of NASA’s Paul Bartolotta

NASA is open for business. We’re opening our safe, so to speak

So, what’s on offer?

Per Crains,

The technologies are far ranging and include things like a special copper alloy that NASA developed for rocket nozzles. Those nozzles have to withstand tremendous temperatures and other harsh environmental conditions.

As it turns out, they also make great welding electrodes that can be used on robotic welders — electrodes that last far longer than those available using other metals, NASA says.

Also set to be unveiled is the material NASA developed to keep jet engine blades from penetrating the bodies of jet engines and plane fuselages.

The material, a type of foam sandwiched between special layers of something similar to carbon fiber, is super tough, but it’s also light. It might even serve as a new, lighter skin for NASA’s next rocket, though it could be useful in making lighter and stronger car bodies, Dr. Bartolotta said.

Other technologies include sensors and controls that could help hybrid or electric cars become more efficient; solid oxide fuel cells to power vehicles; new materials that can be used to contain pressurized natural gas; and green polymers that put out only water and not noxious gases when they are used.

And though NASA is attacking the same challenge as the auto industry, namely how to build vehicles that are cheap and efficient yet up to the rigorous demands of their duties, it seems interest may not be as high as you might think. Though over 100 firms will come by to see NASA’s technology, nearly 500 invitees have decided to sit the exhibition out. Given how competitive the auto industry is, it seems unlikely that these firms are sleeping on a truly game-changing technology… but then, materials technologies are all about applications. As pointed out in the example of the copper alloy, a material designed for one purpose can end up having a much bigger impact in a completely different application. And who knows where these new technologies could end up in your next car…

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