NASA’s treasure chest of freely available resources isn’t just good for your laptop’s wallpaper. Last week, they released 56 of their previously patented technologies into the public domain for anybody to use.
Along with this news, NASA also announced their new searchable database that contains over 1,000 expired patents already in the public domain. Users can now can easily search through patent categories including robotics, information technology and software, communications, electronics, environment, materials, power generation, propulsion, medicine, and biotechnology.
Although many of the ideas in the database were initially developed for use in space programs, many have wider applications. Just think, work from NASA has even helped create a cheaper method to put bubbles into beer.
Among the free-to-use technology in their database is a high-voltage water purification system, a method to manufacture carbon nanotubes, and even a Jetsons-esque hypersonic flying vehicle from the 1930s (see below).
Private aerospace companies have already benefited from NASA patents. A good example of this is the concept of inflatable TransHab space modules initially patented by NASA in the nineties. Private start-up Bigelow Aerospace later bought the patent, and they are now using the technology to develop their own expandable and inflatable space habitats.
In this instance, the patent was purchased by Bigelow Aerospace for a chunky $17.8 million. But with the likes of more and more private companies launching themselves into the space game, the free-use of these technologies could prove to be of great help in the costly and competitive world of space exploration.
“By making these technologies available in the public domain, we are helping foster a new era of entrepreneurship that will again place America at the forefront of high-tech manufacturing and economic competitiveness,” said Daniel Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer program executive, in a NASA statement. “By releasing this collection into the public domain, we are encouraging entrepreneurs to explore new ways to commercialize NASA technologies.”