NASA develops and funds the development of many valuable innovations. The annual IOY program recognizes those inventions that have significantly contributed to NASA programs, or that exemplify NASA’s mission to transfer cutting edge technology to U.S. industry.
Two distinct awards are presented: the NASA Government Invention of the Year, and the NASA Commercial Invention of the Year. The Invention and Contributions Board makes recommendations on the competition outcome, based on nominations it receives, to the General Counsel. The General Counsel, as the competition sponsor, makes the final recommendation to the NASA Administrator, who has final authority to approve the monetary awards.
The NASA Government Invention of the Year Award is awarded to the invention Boron Nitride Nanotubes, from the Langley Research Center. The invention includes a novel approach to synthesizing high quality boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) without a metal catalyst using a high pressure and temperature method. This is the first breakthrough discovery to produce high quality BNNTs without any catalyst at a scalable amount since the first BNNT synthesis was reported back in 1994. The BNNTs produced from this process are lightweight, stable, and exhibit high strength. This heat resistant material can be used at high service temperatures and for radiation shielding.
The NASA Commercial Invention of the Year Award is awarded to the invention Hydrogen Sensing Pigments in Manufactured Polymer Composites (a.k.a. Hydrogen Leak Detection Tape), from the Kennedy Space Center. The invention is a chemochromic sensor for detecting a combustible gas, such as hydrogen. This technology is licensed to HySense Technology LLC, which sells a product, Intellipigment™ tape, for detecting hydrogen gas leaks. This tape is a low cost detection means that can be used in many commercial and government applications, in multiple industries, including aerospace, oil and gas production, chemical and power plants.