NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:05 X12.01-9587
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Advanced Life Support: Air and Thermal
PROPOSAL TITLE:Hydrogen Recovery by ECR Plasma Pyrolysis of Methane

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 E. Atwater
PO Box 609
Myrtle Creek, OR  97457 -0102
(541) 863 - 2652

Development of a microgravity and hypogravity compatible Electron Cyclotron Resonance (ECR) Plasma Methane Pyrolysis Reactor is proposed to recover hydrogen which is lost as methane in the conversion of carbon dioxide to water via the Sabatier process. This will close the hydrogen loop which currently requires 50% resupply. This technology will also produce elemental carbon as a secondary product, which may be employed as an adsorbent or catalyst carrier for removal of atmospheric trace contaminants, thus further lowering the resupply burden for manned spacecraft. ECR plasmas produce extremely high temperatures confined within relatively small spatial dimensions and can be generated under low power (10-150 W) conditions. The plasma is heated by the resonant absorption of electromagnetic energy, a much more efficient way to achieve plasma conditions, compared to traditional methods. The ECR method of plasma generation confines the plasma using magnetic force, and therefore, can be employed in microgravity, hypogravity, and Earth gravity. The primary problem associated with conventional fixed bed catalytic methane pyrolysis reactors is severe catalyst fouling and bed plugging due to the deposition of the carbon product. The proposed ECR Plasma based process will circumvent these problems.

The NASA application of this technology will be as Flight Hardware for deployment in support of future long duration exploration objectives such as a lunar mission, lunar base, Mars transit or Mars base. The primary application will be for the recovery of hydrogen lost in the Sabatier process for CO2 reduction to produce water in Advanced Life Support systems. Secondarily, this process may also be used in conjunction with a Sabatier reactor employed for propellant and fuel production from Martian atmospheric CO2.

The ability to efficiently produce hydrogen from natural gas is a critical need for society at large. The concept of a 'Hydrogen Economy' has been widely recognized as an excellent means to combat global warming induced by the atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. In the Hydrogen Economy, clean-burning H2 is substituted for CO2 generating fossil fuels (petroleum and coal). However, the ability to do so is entirely contingent upon the development of economical means for hydrogen production and storage. Using our innovative methane pyrolysis approach, hydrogen can be economically recovered from natural gas.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Air Revitalization and Conditioning
Biomedical and Life Support
Waste Processing and Reclamation

Form Printed on 09-19-05 13:12