Ballpoint pens. Artificial limbs. Cordless vacuum cleaners. Freeze-dried food. All inventions we owe to the fine work of NASA and their wealth of patents.
Pretty much every time NASA releases its technology to the wider world, manufacturing groups the world over jump at the chance to turn the space-age inventions into world-changing gadgets.
Just this month, NASA released another series of 56 patents to the public for unrestricted commercial use. Here are some of the coolest from the latest catalogue (that you can search here).
High-voltage water purification
This is one of the most exciting patents to be released: "Originally developed as a means to recycle water in space, this technology has applications in industrial water treatment, water recycling, and water purification for military bases, disaster sites, and regions without easy access to clean water."
There are no harmful by-products, no filters to replace - just plug it in and turn dirty water into life-saving drinking water.
High-speed flight vehicle control
"A vehicle having supersonic and hypersonic flight capabilities equipped with a pair of elevons on the aft end of the body and disposed with hinge lines swept forward relative to the aircraft centerline at an angle less than 90."
You had us at "high-speed flight vehicle".
System for controlling a magnetically levitated rotor
A levitating rotor. As in, a spinning arm of thrust that you can control with a computer, that isn't slowed down by any friction and won't require the same sort of maintenance of a regular motor. Think wicked awesome hover vehicles, boats and anything that needs a rotor.
Coil system for plasmoid thruster
So apparently this tech involves "bias and drive coils" that "are interleaved with one another as they are helically wound about a conical region".
Nope, we've got no idea either, but how cool does Coil system for plasmoid thruster sound, right?!
Method for manufacturing high quality carbon nanotubes
Now this is a big deal.
Carbon nanotubes are a very exciting technology that have applications in a whole bunch of industries - from making super-tough fabrics to super-small electronics and hugely efficient solar cells.
If more companies are able to make more reliable nanotubes, it could see this experimental tech become cheaper and more widely available.
Aerospace laser ignition/ablation variable high precision thruster
We'll take seven.
Accelerator system and method of accelerating particles
"The dusty plasma thruster can simply use unprocessed dust as propellant."
So, basically, you can build a spaceship powered by dust.
Those NASA guys are awesome.