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From Racing Suits to Robotic Gloves: How to Gear Up with NASA Technology

From Racing Suits to Robotic Gloves: How to Gear Up with NASA Technology

From Racing Suits to Robotic Gloves: How to Gear Up with NASA Technology

Did you know you are surrounded by NASA technology? From your apartment building to the doctor’s office, and even in your cellphone camera, there is more space in your life than you think!

In the latest edition of Spinoff, we are introducing dozens of new ways NASA technology could cross your path. Whether you need an extra “hand” on the production line or a weatherproof jacket, check out how to gear up with technology made for space.

Grip-Strengthening Glove

A man in a blue polo shirt wears a white and yellow grip-strengthening glove, which he uses to lift and turn various objects, including a large wrench.ALT

Robots are crucial to exploring space and other planets – they could even support astronauts and form the advance party for places humans have yet to reach. But the human machine is hard to replicate.

A collaboration with General Motors helped us build Robonaut 2 – and the design for this robot’s hands has been adapted into a robotic glove that helps manufacturing employees, such as automobile workers, reduce injuries and improve quality control.

The Swedish company Bioservo used the Robo-Glove technology to create the world’s first industrial-strength robotic glove for factory workers who perform repetitive manual tasks.

The Ironhand glove adds force to the user’s grip with artificial tendons and pressure sensors on the palm and the fingers.

The result? Reduced strain on the user’s own tendons and muscles, meaning fewer workplace stress injuries and better comfort for workers.

Temperature-Control Fabrics

NASA astronaut Anne McClain displays a U.S. spacesuit glove that consists of several layers for extra thermal protection and comfort. Thermofoil heaters are also attached inside each of the fingertips in one of the layers of the glove.ALT

Spacesuits need major insulation and temperature control to protect astronauts on extravehicular activities, aka spacewalks. To help solve this, we created a phase-change material with help from the Triangle Research and Development Corporation.

With funding from a NASA Small Business Innovation Research contract, Triangle incorporated the material into a fabric glove insert that could maintain a steady temperature by absorbing and releasing heat, ensuring it feels just right.

While the invention never made it to orbit, it did make it into the driver’s seat.

Outlast Technologies exclusively licensed the material from Triangle and has incorporated it into outdoor gear, bedding, and now – auto racing suits with help from Cambridge, England-based Walero.

Cristiana Oprea, a racer, wears a black Walero racing undergarment while sitting on a red divider at the edge of a racetrack.ALT

Due to extreme temperatures in the cockpit, drivers in almost every major racing championship wear Walero for its cooling properties. Cristiana Oprea (pictured) wears it while driving for the European Rally Championship. Credit: Walero

The race undergarments, bonded with fire-retardant material for added protection, help drivers maintain a lower core temperature and heart rate, which means fewer mistakes and better lap times.

The suits have been sold to both amateur racers and professional NASCAR drivers.

Lightweight Rain Jackets

Astronaut John Grunsfeld works on repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope. ALT

The superinsulating material that makes up space blankets is one of our most ubiquitous spinoffs. Found everywhere from inside the walls and roofs of buildings to cryogenic tanks and MRI machines, radiant barrier technology was first created to insulate spacesuits and spacecraft. And now this NASA spinoff can be found in weatherproof jackets as well.

Inspired by her passion to run following a series of surgeries to help correct a life-threatening injury, Hema Nambiar launched her Larchmont, New York, start-up company 13-One. To create her jacket, she worked with Advanced Flexible Materials Inc.’s brand Heatsheets. The brand was already marketing products like the space blankets traditionally distributed after races to prevent dangerous drops in temperature.

A man wears a 13-One jacket.ALT

The 13-One jackets are designed to be warm and weatherproof, but their thin, reflective lining lets them also be lightweight and easily portable. Credit: Lourenso Ramautar, Out of New York Studio

The resulting line of jackets has a black exterior and a lining to reflect body heat. They weigh less than a pound, are wind- and water-resistant, and easily pack into a small, built-in pouch.

Want to check out more NASA spinoffs? Be sure to find us on spinoff.nasa.gov and on Twitter.

Interested in licensing your own NASA technologies? Check out the NASA Technology Transfer program at technology.nasa.gov.

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