Cool Tech: 2011 NASA Innovative Advance Concepts Fellowships Announced!

Back in May I wrote about the rebirth of the NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) program. Today NASA held a press conference to announce the winners. NASA announced all sorts of cool stuff including fantastic science-fiction projects like:

  • deflecting space debris using pressure waves in the atmosphere
  • fabricating spacecraft using 3D printers
  • using metallic hydrogen as a propellent

Now, all of those things are reason enough to celebrate NASA’s re-entry into “innovative advance concepts” research, but what’s got me really excited is that my client Grover Swartzlander is on the list! Back in January Dr. Swartzlander earned a lot of well-deserved attention from the scientific community when he published the discovery of “optical lift” a new method for manipulating objects using light. Optical lift has the potential to revolutionize  micro- and nano-manipulation of objects in much the same way that the discovery of optical tweezers did forty years ago. On a larger scale, though, Dr. Swartzlander posited that the same principles might apply to steering and stabilizing enormous structures, such as solar sails. NASA agreed that the concept has the potential to solve a number of technical challenges faced by solar sails and granted him a Phase I NIAC fellowship. I need to let the dust settle, but you can expect a full “Cool Tech” article on this soon!




    • FI on August 9, 2011 at 10:48 am

    It’s a neat paper, did not know about it. I wonder why the authors did not at all address the possible role of localized heating. That’s kind of the first question that comes to mind.

    1. Laser heating was an initial concern but thermal effects were deemed negligible for a variety of experimental and theoretical reasons. As a point of reference, in the past I pioneered the use of thermal-optical effects for the creation of dark spatial solitons in liquids, including the discovery of the optical vortex soliton. That included extensive modeling for applications such as optical limiters. See International J. Nonlinear Optical Physics, 2, 577-611 (1993).

    • on August 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I’d be happy to introduce you to Grover, and you can ask him about thermal effects yourself! I’m sure he’d be interested to discuss it.

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