HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. Through NASA’s Small Business Innovative Research
program being administered by Stennis Space Center’s Office of Technology
Transfer, Duncan
Technologies Inc. of Auburn, Calif., is finding new and different markets
for its hydrogen flame
imaging system and has achieved a milestone of $1 million in sales.
The goals of NASA’s SBIR program are to stimulate technological innovation,
increase the
use of small business — including women-owned and disadvantaged firms — in
meeting federal
research and development needs, and increase private-sector
commercialization of innovations
derived from federally funded research.

When Judy and Dave Duncan of Duncan Technologies developed a color hydrogen
imaging system in the early 1990s, their market prospects were limited. The
system detects hydrogen
flames invisible to the naked eye and replaces the risky “broom method,”
which involved waving a
straw broom in a suspicious area to see if it would ignite to reveal
invisible flames.
The market for the imaging system included hydrogen suppliers, refineries,
companies, food and semiconductor processors, the fertilizer industry,
cosmetic companies, the
hydrogen vehicle-monitoring and maintenance industry and the racecar

Today, in its next generation, the Duncan camera creates higher resolution
images that have
given the company a foothold in several more generic arenas including
industrial inspections,
scientific imaging applications and some unusual applications.
For instance, one customer uses the camera in amusement park rides to take
photographs of
people screaming on a roller coaster. The higher resolution photo can be
reproduced in a larger
format and is marketed to people who want a photographic memento of their
thrill ride.

“The SBIR program can be of significant value to small businesses,” Kirk
Sharp, manager of
Stennis’ Office of Technology Transfer, said. “The success experienced by
Duncan Technologies
demonstrates how the SBIR program can support a small company’s bottom line,
if the topic of their
work stays aligned with their business plan or core competency.”
“Working with NASA’s SBIR program and the people at Stennis, we have gotten
involved in
other imaging areas.” Judy Duncan, co-owner and CEO of Duncan Technologies,
said. “For example,
we are working with groups doing research on multi-spectral imaging for use
in poultry processing to
detect fecal contamination. And, from the basic architecture we created, we
have continued to
develop more generic digital cameras. Our work with SBIR allows us to
further enhance our
technology, address government needs and develop new commercial products.”

Companies interested in participating in the NASA SBIR Program should
contact the Office
of Technology Transfer at Stennis Space Center at (228) 688-1929, by email
technology@ssc.nasa.gov, or visit the web site at