NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 B3.09-8760
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Radiation Shielding to Protect Humans
PROPOSAL TITLE: Radiation Shielding and Hydrogen Storage with Multifunctional Carbon

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Advanced Fuel Research Inc
87 Church Street
East Hartford, CT 06108-3728

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Eric Rubenstein
87 Church Street
East Hartford, CT 06108-3728

This project addresses two vital problems for long-term space travel activities: radiation shielding and hydrogen storage for power and propulsion. While both problems have been studied for many years, there is currently no satisfactory technology for providing adequate non-parasitic shielding. Even in low-Earth orbit, astronauts must be closely monitored for radiation exposure, and some missions simply cannot be performed due to the current inability to shield astronauts (e.g. Mars or surface Lunar bases). The overall objective of the proposed project is to construct, test, and deliver a prototype for hydrogen storage and radiation shielding. The Phase I objectives are to validate/verify the radiation shielding capability of these systems and to operate it in a relevant environment, i.e. while being bombarded by ionizing radiation at a nuclear accelerator. These objectives will be accomplished in four tasks: (1) prototype preparation and characterization; (2) empirical study of radiation shielding at BNL Accelerator Facilities; (3) complementary computational study to broaden shielding characterization and to validate shielding code performance with respect to this nonparasitic shielding concept and (4) process and product assessment. The successful operation of the prototype would raise the TRL from 4 to 5 or 6 (system operated in a relevant environment).

The main NASA applications for the proposed technology is dual-use hydrogen storage and radiation shielding systems on board spacecraft, space station, and also smaller versions used for innovations in spacesuit design, possibly a specially modified Hard Upper Torso (HUT). The primary purpose of this effort is to develop a piece of hardware for NASA that can ultimately be an important component of a Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS), providing at the same time energy-storage functionality. The systems developed as a results of the proposed study will be useful to NASA in at least two respects: 1) radiation shielding for people and electronics, and 2) fuel storage for propulsion or electrical power generation. The multi-functional material in the current study significantly boosts the hydrogen storage ability of compressed gas cylinders and provides excellent radiation shielding characteristics.

Commercial areas that are under exploration are primarily related to fuel cell systems, with automobiles and other transportation vehicles of particular interest. The main application of the developed carbons would be in gas-storage systems (automobiles, trucks, buses, locomotives, spacecraft, submarines, UAV's, etc.), with additional applications including radiation shielding in other aerospace environments (satellites, military/astronomical detectors sensitive to obscuring background radiation, high-altitude, long-duration aircraft, etc.). AFR has also been approached by a firm specializing in hazardous gas packaging for their interest in storing gases at less than atmospheric pressure. In such an application, our sorbent has the potential to double or triple the amount of gas in a cylinder. Other uses of carbons with well-controlled pore structure include carbon molecular sieve membranes for gas separations, ultracapacitor electrodes, and catalysts. AFR is actively working with Maxwell Technologies, our industrial partner, to bring our ultracapacitor electrode technology to market.