NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 03- II F3.02-7942
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Spaceport Cryogenic Fluids Handling and Storage Technologies
PROPOSAL TITLE: Ormosil Beads for Insulation of Ground Cryogenic Storage Tanks

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Roxana Trifu
30 Forbes Road, Building B
Northborough, MA 01532-2501
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

Organically modified silica (Ormosil) aerogel beads developed at Aspen Aerogels, Inc. offer several advantages for retrofitting perlite insulation in NASA's ground tanks storing liquid hydrogen and oxygen. Through both Phase I and internal R&D efforts, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and glutaraldehyde-crosslinked chitosan (GAC) hybrid silica aerogels were developed and evaluated. The hydrophobic aerogel beads have excellent compression strength, resisting thermal cycling and mechanical loads without breaking or settling. Investigations of the thermal performance of hybrid aerogel beads by nitrogen boil-off tests and the mechanical strength by compression tests have shown that carbon-opacified PMMA beads of diameter below 1 mm outperform perlite to the greatest extent. The Phase II work will continue with PMMA systems to optimize the formula and to determine the processing conditions required for controlling bead size distribution and achieving the desired thermal and mechanical performance characteristics. A scale-up of the process is planned to achieve pilot volumes (30-50 liters/hour). We will also demonstrate reproducibility in final bead performance through study of raw material variability (lot-to-lot) and process settings (batch-to-batch).

For non-NASA applications, the largest volume market segment identified to date is for LNG tanker hull insulation. The proposed solution will allow an increase in usable vessel space. These cargo transport ships will be able to use less than one third the volume for the same thermal performance of the current material, perlite. The novel insulation can also be used for protecting superconductive magnets or oil well underwater pipelines. Aspen's hybrid aerogels can offer thermal management solutions for handling or transportation of cryogens, supporting cryogenic equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

: Cost-effective solutions to insulation problems are fundamental to the energy-intensive field of cryogenics as well as space travel. Liquid hydrogen storage capacity at major Government user locations totals 5,575,000 gallons. Approximately 100,000 gallons are lost to vaporization each time the LH2 flows from the pad storage tank to the Shuttle external tank. Ormosil beads have been proposed for insulating cryogenic umbilical connections for new commercial launch platforms, retrofitting perlite-insulated storage dewars, and insulating miles-long cryogen transfer lines. NASA can also use the resilient bead insulation for space launch vehicle propellant tanks, Space Shuttle upgrades, interplanetary propulsion and life support equipment.