NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-F2.01-9557 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 033448)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:In-Situ Resources Utilization of Planetary Materials for Human Space Missions
PROPOSAL TITLE:In-Situ Resources Utilization for Organic Chemicals Production

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Eltron Research Inc
4600 Nautilus Court South
Boulder ,CO 80301 - 3241
(303) 530 - 0263

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James H. White
4600 Nautilus Court South
Boulder ,CO  80301 -3241
(303) 530 - 0263
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

This proposed Small Business Innovative Research Phase I addresses the development of a catalytic system for efficient conversion of carbon dioxide and hydrogen to hydrocarbon and organic species via carbon monoxide. This approach is particularly relevant to future Mars missions, since the Martian atmosphere is comprised of over 95% CO2. The proposed approach will utilize Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis (FTS) chemistry to selectively convert CO produced by CO2 reduction, e.g., from reverse water gas shift (RWGS), into hydrocarbons and oxygenates for many applications. The proposed approach is complementary to previous effort by Eltron in which nanoscale catalysts were developed for promoting RWGS. The proposed approach meshes ideally with RWGS in that stoichiometric mixtures of carbon dioxide and hydrogen lead to an H2:CO ratio of approximately 1.5 at the RWGS exit. Phase I will consist of the preparation, characterization, and evaluation of 12-15 candidate catalysts anticipated to have exceptional activity for selective (essentially CO2 free) FTS. Downselection of catalysts and identification of preferred conditions will result during Phase I. Phase II will involve the fabrication and testing of a closed loop system for converting CO2 and hydrogen into fuels, chemicals, plastics, etc.

The technology developed during this proposed project will find use at in-situ resources utilization (ISRU) for conversion of, e.g., Martian CO2 into useful chemicals. The conversion of CO2 arising from metabolic or other sources would be enabled, providing on-site access to fuels and organic chemicals.

Highly active and selective catalysts discovered under this contract will be immediately applicable toward terrestrial CO2 remediation efforts and even the effective reclamation of fossil fuels. Carbon monoxide is a valuable raw material utilized for the industrial production of many commodity chemicals including methanol, formaldehyde, and acetic acid. The RWGS reaction is very likely to prove an economically competitive route to conventional carbon monoxide formation processes. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis combined with RWGS is a net energy producing system and would render the synthesis gas produced into valuable species.