NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-B3.01-8464 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 034541)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Advanced Spacecraft Life Support
PROPOSAL TITLE:Efficient Electrochemical Hydrogen Peroxide Generation in Water

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Umpqua Research Company
P.O. Box 609
Myrtle Creek ,OR 97457 - 0102
(541) 863 - 7770

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James R. Akse, Ph.D.
PO Box 609
Myrtle Creek ,OR  97457 -0102
(541) 863 - 2653
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

An electrochemical cell is proposed for the efficient generation of 3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in pure water using only power, oxygen and water. H2O2 is an attractive biocide for space-based missions, because no harmful chemical residues are produced, yet planktonic, biofilm-forming, and surface microorganisms are effectively controlled using low concentrations. The major hurdle to expanding the use of H2O2 aboard spacecraft has been the absence of an effective H2O2 generator. A new cell design employing new materials will be used to accomplish this goal. First, an innovative conductive polymer cathode will be utilized to form H2O2 efficiently and selectively. Second, a solid polymer electrolyte (SPE) combined with an innovative anode - SPE - cathode design will be utilized to efficiently transfer H+ ions from the anode to cathode, where H2O2 is formed. This approach circumvents problems encountered with previous electrochemical cells designed to produce H2O2. The Phase I will clearly demonstrate the feasibility of these concepts by producing H2O2 in pure water. The Phase II will improve cell efficiency and decrease equivalent system mass (ESM) through cell miniaturization. Long-term performance tests will validate the basic cell design, forming the basis for a multitude of applications in space and commercial markets.

The primary application of an H2O2 generator will be for disinfection of areas that accumulate significant microbial contamination over time. Hydroponic enclosures, plant growth chambers, waste handling areas, and moist surfaces among others have potential for microbial outbreaks that will degrade performance or endanger crew health. H2O2 offers an ideal solution to these challenges, as an effective disinfectant without problematic residues. H2O2 can also be used to sterilize medical equipment during emergencies without bulky and costly chemical solutions or autoclaves. The ability to efficiently generate H2O2 on-demand will significantly reduce logistics and costs in these and other areas.

Efficient H2O2 production using only power, water, and oxygen has high commercial appeal. One market is the on-site production of an environmentally friendly bleaching agent for pulp and other products, where transportation costs currently dominate. A miniaturized H2O2 generator can automatically dispense H2O2 as a bleaching agent in washing machines, or as a biocide in water supply units used in medical equipment. At remote locations, and during emergencies or military actions, the on-site production of a powerful disinfectant is another attractive commercial use. Based upon a successful Phase I, a very strong potential exists for the development of this technology.