Phil Monkress: Surprising Examples of NASA Technology

All kinds of strange and delightful innovations have come out of NASA, or out of partnerships with NASA, as the agency balances its work of trying to understand the universe with its mission to enrich the lives of Americans through that work. Here are some of the more surprising and unusual consumer products that NASA has had a hand in:

The “zit zapper:” Pimples are normally caused by small infestations of P. Acne bacteria – hence the term acne. A scientist named Robert Conrad realized that a device that could deliver the right amount of shock and heat to a zit could kill the bacteria causing the problem without harming the person at all. A NASA program helped him to reduce the expense of the heating unit alone from $80 to ten cents, and a range of products based on this technology are now available.

Microalgae: One of the most efficient and effective nutritional supplements the modern world has to offer is microalgae. A specific strain of red algae in particular can be grown easily and quickly, and provides a remarkable amount of DHA, an essential fatty acid that aids in development and maintenance of the heart, eyes, and brain. This algae was discovered by NASA scientists looking for an effective way to grow food in space. A private company combines it with a nutritional fungus to create a supplement that is now used in almost every baby formula on the market.

Nanomaterial hair care: Hair care company Farouk Systems has used NASA research into nanomaterials (materials with tiny, microscopic structures that often have surprising properties) to produce a number of hair care products that purportedly work better than the competition. The company’s nanoceramic alloy flat irons make hair smoother and more manageable. In addition, their nanosilver-coated styling products are automatically antimicrobial.


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