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NASA Names New Composite Government Invention of the Year


HAMPTON, Va. - A device that can act like muscle and nerves to expand and contract surfaces is the 2006 NASA Government Invention of the Year.

NASA’s Macro-Fiber Composite, or MFC, can be attached to a structure to bend it, reduce vibrations and monitor force. A team at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., created the flexible and durable material that uses ceramic fibers. By applying voltage to the MFC, the ceramic fibers change shape to expand or contract and turn the resulting force into a bending or twisting action on the material. Likewise, voltage is generated in proportion to the force applied to the MFC material.

The device primarily is used in industrial and research applications for vibration monitoring and dampening. In addition to improved helicopter rotor blades research, NASA uses of MFC include vibration monitoring of support structures near the space shuttle pads during launches. The composite material can be used for pipeline crack detection and is being tested in wind turbine blades.

Some non-aerospace applications being evaluated include suppressing vibration in performance sporting equipment such as skis, force and pressure sensing for industrial equipment and sound generation and noise cancellation in commercial grade appliances.

“The MFC is the first of its type composite that is specifically engineered for performance, manufacturability and reliability,” said Robert Bryant, a NASA senior materials engineer and MFC team member at Langley. “It’s this combination that creates a ready-to-use system capable of morphing into a variety of uses on Earth and in space.”

During the STS-123 mission, space shuttle Endeavour will carry MFCs into space for the Rigidizable Inflatable Get-Away-Special Experiment. It is a U.S. Department of Defense trial designed to test and collect data on inflated and rigid structures in space. Inflatable space structures can be used for antennas, communication satellites, space station trusses, and solar sail support structures. All these could benefit from MFC technology.

Smart Material Corporation of Sarasota, Fla., is the licensee and manufacturer of NASA’s MFC technology.

NASA’s general counsel selects the Invention of the Year Award with technical assistance from NASA’s Inventions and Contributions Board. For more information about NASA’s Inventions and Contributions Board, visit:

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

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