PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: John G. Watson
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEOctober 29, 1997
JPL PARTNER SELECTED FOR $500,000 NASA RESEARCH PROJECT
Research & Development Laboratories (RDL) of Culver City,
CA, a partner with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the
development of room-temperature electron tunneling technology,
has been selected for immediate negotiation of a $500,000 Phase
II Small Business Technology Transfer Program contract.
One of 13 research proposals chosen by NASA's Office of
Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology in early October,
RDL's work will focus on fabrication of a micro-electromechanical
systems-based (MEMS) tunneling infrared detector -- a highly
sensitive, miniaturized instrument designed to measure the
intensity of infrared radiation. The detector, along with the
electronic circuitry associated with it, will be designed for
insertion into Fourier transform infrared spectrometers,
instruments measuring the infrared spectral characteristics
associated with such substances as minerals and gases.
There are many other potential applications, including
measuring the level of glucose in the blood simply by attaching
an instrument to the skin without the need for invasive
procedures; process monitor instruments; and micro-
miniaturization of sensors for space exploration.
A key feature of the technology, which RDL will prepare for
actual manufacturing as part of the contract, is its capacity to
function at room temperature, without the traditional need for
cooling. JPL originally developed room-temperature electron
tunneling MEMS technology at its Center for Space
Microelectronics Technology. Via the center, JPL is now an RDL
subcontractor assisting with the further development of this
technology, which has not yet been patented. NASA's Small
Business Technology Transfer Program makes it possible for
companies such as RDL to have the opportunity to obtain patents
on such specialized technology, once they have demonstrated that
they can develop commercial applications.
"Everybody wins if the space program can play a role in
helping the private sector to prosper," said Dr. Carl Kukkonen,
director of JPL's Center for Space Microelectronics Technology.
“This technology was originally developed to improve instruments
such as imaging sensors used for mapping and for Earth and
planetary observations. Now RDL, with the help of the center's
scientists and equipment, has picked up the ball and is moving
this technology forward for commercial applications and,
potentially, for other future NASA applications."
RDL president Dr. Birendra (Raj) Dutt said the company is
“delighted with the news of winning the NASA award. And we have
every intention of making the tunneling infrared detector a
The 13 Small Business Technology Transfer contract
recipients were chosen from a total of 32 Phase II proposals, all
submitted by small business contractors who had completed Phase I
projects. RDL, working with JPL, completed a Phase I effort
which demonstrated proof-of-concept of a MEMS-based tunneling
infrared detector preamplifier breadboard for insertion into a
Fourier transform infrared spectrometer.
All proposals were reviewed for both technical merit and
commercial potential. Selections were based on scientific and
technical merit, including the degree to which Phase I objectives
were met; future importance and eventual value of the product,
process, or technology results to the NASA mission; capability of
the small business concern; and evidence of commercial potential.
The Small Business Technology Transfer Program requires a
small business concern to conduct cooperative research and
development by partnering with a research institution such as
JPL. At least 40 percent of the work must be performed by the
small business concern, and at least 30 percent of the work must
be performed by the research institute.
A listing of the selected proposals is available on the
Internet at http://sbir.nasa.gov .
Further information about JPL's Center for Space
Microelectronics Technology is available at
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology,