If you're interested in checking out technologies developed by NASA over the years, you can now access thousands of expired patents using the space agency's new searchable database.
According to Daniel Lockney, program executive of NASA's Technology Transfer project, making their technologies accessible in the public domain could help inspire people to start a new age of entrepreneurship, which would hopefully place the United States back in the lead in terms of economic competitiveness and manufacturing highly advanced technologies.
Aside from launching the new patent database, NASA added 56 carefully selected patents to those already included in the public domain to make them available for commercial use without any restrictions.
The new database, known as the NASA Patent Portfolio, features technologies developed for 15 different areas including electronics, communications, optics, sensors, propulsion, automation and control, robotics, manufacturing, medicine and biotechnology, health, information technology and software, aeronautics and power generation and storage.
While it's easy to think that the NASA patents would only benefit private space companies, such as Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, the American space agency has also worked extensively on other technologies that can be used for non-aerospace applications.
Some of the new technologies that NASA had a hand in developing include artificial limbs, infrared ear thermometers, breast biopsy and a ventricular assist device in the field of medicine and improved radial tires and anti-icing systems for transportation.
By releasing select NASA patents into the public domain, NASA believes it can help private companies save significant time, money and effort on their own commercial projects, which would otherwise require these firms to either create alternative designs or pay out large sums of money just to secure licensing agreements.
NASA has been known to allow small businesses to use its expired patents for free in the past, but this time the space agency is giving even ordinary people access to its collection of patents.