NASA scientist

Dr. Dennis Morrison worked for NASA for many years before going to work for Farouk Systems.

What happens when a world-renowned rocket scientist meets the owner of a haircare company? Amazing hairstyling technology is created.

Dr. Dennis Morrison devoted his life to research at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, home of NASA's space shuttle program. He worked on microcapsules that were designed to deliver drugs to the body; this led to research on nanoceramic—ceramic materials produced by nanotechnology.

It turns out this knowledge proved most beneficial to Farouk Shami, founder and chairman of Farouk Systems in Houston.

The two men met at a NASA-sponsored nanotechnology conference in Texas. Shami was looking to improve the ceramic materials in the hairstyling tools his company produced. After talking with Morrison, Shami developed slick ceramic coatings that emitted negative ions when heated. He applied this technology to his CHI hairstyling irons. The technology proved beneficial to hairstyling when they discovered that the ions released when heated help to soften the hair and make it easier to manage and style.

"At Johnson, we were developing ceramic metallic components for triggering the release of drugs from microcapsules. I never had any idea that it might be beneficial to someone in the hair industry making a hair iron with ceramic plates," says Morrison.

Shami didn’t stop there, however. He also was inspired by the research NASA applied towards disinfectants. Basically, NASA needed to discover new ways to keep surfaces clean and disinfected without the use of chlorine or alcohol fumes. So they turned to nanosilver particles, which act as a passive sterilizing component. Shami took these nanosilver particles and incorporated them into his hairstyling tools. By adding these nanosilver components, airborne microbes and bacteria died after they settled on the surface. This self-disinfecting characteristic made CHI tools appealing to salons and spas, where there is high traffic of germs.

Today, Farouk Systems uses nanomaterials in many of their CHI hair products, including flat irons, hair dryers, brushes, nail polish lacquers and curling irons.

And Shami was inspired once more by NASA technology and research—he created liquid formulations intended to accompany irons and blow dryers. You see many of these products on the shelves today: CHI Ionic Color Protector System, CHI Curl Preserve System, and CHI Organics Olive Nutrient Therapy Line.

Dr. Morrison retired from the Johnson Space Center in 2006 and joined Farouk Systems to further the development of hair styling tools. Using his research on the use of light and light emitting diode (LED) devices, Morrison teamed with Shami to create LED devices that will stimulate scalp healing and growth by applying near infrared (NIR) light. Using this technology, the two have been working to develop and market NIR CHI tools as well as skin products.

While Morrison didn’t begin his career developing hair styling tools, he definitely appreciates NASA ability to research multiple applications. "Alternate uses may not be envisioned for a certain technology, but once you understand the mechanisms of the technology, you can look for spinoff applications," he explains. "As a NASA employee, I was encouraged to spread information about the concepts and results of our research, as well as talk to people about potential new applications of what we were discovering. The CHI hair iron is just a small example.”