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Space Technology Hall of Fame

1991

During the 1960s, research on protective coating materials at NASA?s Lewis Research Center demonstrated that a class of polymers known as condensation polymides could be fabricated into lightweight fiber reinforced plastics. These materials were capable of withstanding temperatures up to 600o F for thousands of hours but were not initially easily utilized. Lewis researchers, led by Dr. Tito T. Serafini, perfected an improved polymide composition that eliminated inconsistent chemistries, use of hazardous solvents, and other process/structural problems. 

The material, called PMR-15, reacts chemically to form a reinforced plastic that is highly resistant to heat and oxidation. Ferro Corporation and ICI Fiberite cautiously applied the material to a few selected ?hot? sections of aircraft structures and engine components. As these applications accumulated flight time, designers gained more confidence in PMR-15 and the number of uses increased. GE Aircraft Engines pioneered this effort by producing PMR-15 advanced composite prepregs (fiber and resin blankets) for aircraft and jet engine applications. With a lightweight, low-cost substitute for titanium, these prepregs enabled jet engine manufacturers to significantly improve engine thrust-to-weight ratios without sacrificing structural integrity. At present, PMR-15 advanced composite materials are used by all of the major jet engine manufacturers. More recently, PMR-15 has been applied in aluminum strip processing, steel mills and finishing lines as self-lubricating composite wear liners and bushings used in high heat, high friction areas such as valve seats, wheels, pulleys, and insulators. Lasting ten times longer than its predecessor, aluminum bronze, and needing no grease, this durable and rugged material is bound to find many other commercial applications.
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) takes the lives of nearly a half million Americans each year. Some 80 percent die before medical help arrives and those who survive have faced a two-year heart attack recurrence rate as high as 55 percent. The Automatic Implantable Cardiovertor Defibrillator (AICD) gave new hope to these victims by lowering the recurrence rate to less than 3 percent. 

This heart assist system, derived from NASA's space circuitry technology, works to prevent the erratic heart action known as arrhythmia. The AICD is a cardiac pacemaker device incorporating micro miniature circuits with built-in microprocessor capability and the ability to communicate. Sensing heart activity, it recognizes the onset of arrhythmia and delivers corrective electrical countershock to restore normal rhythmic heartbeat. Intec Systems Inc. and Medrad Inc. of Pittsburgh originally developed the AICD in the early 1970s, in conjunction with researchers at Sinai Hospital, Baltimore. NASA funded development of an AICD recording system and an independent design review of the system, both conducted by the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University. First implanted in a human in 1980, development of more advanced models have continued through the years. Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc., (CPI) St. Paul, Minnesota, has spearheaded these efforts after purchasing Intec Systems in 1985. CPI was the first company to receive FDA approval for their manufacturing and distribution of this life saving technology.
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