Like most national space programmes, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed many indigenous technologies that have either been directly transferred to industry, or that have been adapted for non-space uses. Here are a few industries ISRO has impacted by bringing its space technologies down to earth.
1. Medical: A light artificial foot
ISRO’s artificial polyurethane foot, also known as an updated version of the Jaipur foot, was transferred for public use in 2002. Developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), the foot is made of a polyurethane manufactured for use in ISRO’s rockets, and which was later adapted for use in artificial foot prosthesis. After undergoing extensive trials with the Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, it was transferred free of charge to Bhagavan Mahavir Vikalanga Sahayatha Samithi (BMVSS), an NGO which distributes artificial limbs to the disabled in 27 countries. In 2002, with ISRO’s new technology, its signature Jaipur Foot was made lighter and more durable, weighing only 500 grams.
2. Textile: A Heat-resistant cloth
ISROSIL, a type of high silica cloth trademarked by ISRO in 1983, is now used in various industries for insulation and thermal protection. Containing more than 98% silicon dioxide, ISROSIL was first used in ISRO’s launch vehicles as a nozzle liner reinforcement material, and was developed by VSSC. With a melting point of 1650ºC, it is today used as a thermal blanket for pipes, furnaces, seals and gaskets.
3. Personal care: An ultra-strong hand sanitizer
Because ISRO personnel needed an effective hand-cleansing solution to rinse off sticky materials such as adhesives, oils and polymers, it developed a hand lotion known as PEDCLEAN-A. PEDCLEAN was evaluated and certified by India’s Industrial Toxicological Research Institute, which certified it safe for use as a skin barrier cream.
4. Machinery: An easy way to install screws
In 2012, ISRO actively began to market its Precision Tapping Attachment both domestically and internationally. Developed by its Space Applications Centre (SAC), it is a practical tapping attachment suitable for industrial use in mechanical packages, enabling even unskilled workers to tap screws with ease and accuracy.
5. Construction: A portable holographic machine
VSSC’s Digital Holographic Testing Machine is a portable holographic machine that allows the construction industry to detect internal cracks, deformations, stress and other defects remotely, and therefore, safely. Patented by ISRO in 2007, the machine uses waves to detect defects, and then uses digital holography to reconstruct an image of the area tested, all in real time. Another related technology transfer is ISRO’s H Digital Holographic Software , developed by VSSC.
6. Medical: A new material for dentures
Originally developed for launch vehicles, ISRO’s ACRAMID artificial denture material uses its polyaramid reinforced plastic for medical purposes. ACRAMID is meant to replace missing teeth in a process known as fixed prosthodontic restoration, and is a substitute commonly-used materials such as gold. Proven to be safe and long-lasting, ACRAMID dentures costs a fraction of other materials and is light, durable, and matches the colour of teeth.
7. Fire safety: Two popular fire extinguishing powders
Now widely-available in India, ISRO’s fire extinguishing powders were developed for safety reasons in a high-risk environment such as rocket launches. Currently, two patented ISRO powders are in the market – OLFEX for flammable liquid and gas fires, and Ternary Eutectic Chloride (TEC) for metal fires. Suitable for use in conventional extinguishers, it is now used in government departments and industry.