NASA Ames Research Center

Overview

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Ames Research Center is located at Moffett Field, in California’s Silicon Valley. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics selected Ames to be its second aeronautical research laboratory in December 1939. Ames became part of NASA when that agency was formed in 1958 (1b).  NASA Ames' nanotechnology effort started in early 1996 and has steadily grown to establish a Center for Nanotechnology. The research work focuses on experimental research and development in nano- and biotechnologies as well as on a strong complementary modeling and simulation effort that includes computational nanotechnology, computational nanoelectronics, computational optoelectronics, and computational modeling of processes encountered in nanofabrication (1a). 

With over $3.0 billion in capital equipment, 2500 researchers, scientists and technology developers, and a $750-850 million annual operating budget, Ames' economic impact is significant, both regionally and nationally. Ames plays a critical role in virtually all NASA aeronautical and space exploration endeavors by conducting research and developing technologies that enable NASA missions (1b).

As a research center, Ames has a heavy focus on science, and is the host of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and NASA Lunar Science Institute virtual organizations.  The Ames family includes researchers in biosciences, bioengineering, radiation and space biotechnology, earth science, airborne science, biosphere science, atmosphere science, astrophysics, planetary systems and exobiology. Ames research focuses on topics from the effects of gravity on living things to the nature and distribution of celestial bodies, planets and life in the universe (1b). Ames is the lead center for the Kepler mission's search for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone outside of our solar system, and the science lead for the SOFIA airborne infrared telescope (1b).

Facilities and Research Initiatives

Ames is one of ten NASA field centers. It is located at the core of the research cluster of high-tech companies, start-ups, universities and national laboratories that define the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area region's character (1b).  The Center’s vision is to develop novel concepts in nanotechnology for NASA's future needs on electronics, computing, sensors, and advanced miniaturization of all systems; to develop highly integrated and intelligent simulation environment that facilitates the rapid development and validation of future generation electronic devices as well as associated materials and processes through virtual prototyping (1a).

Ames is a leader in information technology research with a focus on supercomputing, networking and intelligent systems. The center also has strong expertise and facilities in support of fundamental space biology, biotechnology, aerospace and thermal protection systems, small satellite missions, nanotechnology, simulation and modeling, wind tunnels, air traffic management and human factors research. An important element of the nanotechnology research of NASA is the use of materials and components, which are based on carbon nanotubes. For this, a multiplicity of potential applications is postulated within the range of structure materials, nanoelectronics, sensor technology and biomedicine (2).

Strategic Partnerships

Ames researchers collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct research in air traffic management in order to make safer, cheaper and more efficient air travel a reality. Ames engages in information and education outreach, forms innovative collaborative partnerships, and fosters commercial application of NASA technologies. Ames operates the NASA Research Park, an integrated, dynamic research and education community designed to cultivate out-of-the-box thinking and foster mutually beneficial partnerships with academia and industry in support of NASA's mission (1b).

NASA works on projects with other organizations such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health and with companies to further developments within the range of nanotechnology. NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program promotes technology developments through small enterprises. This concerns predominantly application-orientated research for a short to medium-term time horizon. This research deals, in particular, with applications of nanomaterials and nanolayers. Also, in the frame of SBIR programs of other US agencies, in particular the Department of Defense, nanotechnological developments are promoted with relevance for the space sector (2).

The UC Santa Cruz’s University Affiliated Research Center (UARC)’s research is part of a long-term collaboration with the NASA Ames Center for Nanotechnology and employs a multidisciplinary approach that integrates nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, and information technologies (3).

Sources

  1. NASA (2012). Retrieved on November 11, 2012
    1. “Center for Nanotechnology” (2007, April 13) from www.ipt.arc.nasa.gov
    2. “About NASA Ames” (2012, November 9) from www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/about/overview.html
  2. AZoNano (2005, April 12). “Nanotechnology Activities in Space - What NASA is Working On.” Retrieved on November 11, 2012 from www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1174
  3. UC Santa Cruz (2012). “Nanotechnology.” Retrieved on November 11, 2012 from http://uarc.ucsc.edu/research/nanotechnology