NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:05 X12.07-9070
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Advanced Life Support: Water and Waste Processing
PROPOSAL TITLE:Microgravity Compatible Gas-Liquid Separation using Capillary Pressure Gradients

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

An innovative microgravity and hypogravity compatible Gas-Liquid Separator (GLS) is proposed. This novel GLS consists of an ordered array of variable sized water repellant granular particles that result in a spatial surface energy density gradient within the GLS. The resultant capillary pressure causes gas and water to flow toward different outlet GLS positions. The device contains no moving parts and is compatible with deployment in a variety of NASA ALS and ECLSS applications. Preliminary experiments, conducted in a vertically oriented quasi two-dimensional system, separated an air-water mixture using the proposed technology. The capillary pressure gradient within the GLS caused a flowing gas-water mixture to separate into a gas-enriched stream and a water stream. The gas-enriched stream exited at the bottom of the GLS, counter to the buoyancy force, and the water stream exited at the top of the GLS. This flow response clearly demonstrates microgravity compatibility. The Phase I project will demonstrate the feasibility of this innovative GLS technology. The Phase II program will deliver to NASA a full-scale GLS with test documentation that will allow evaluation of the technology for specific ALS or ECLSS applications. This technology demonstrator will also form the basis for multiple commercial applications.

The NASA application is as Flight Hardware for an ISS retrofit or future long duration missions. The GLS technology has potential applications wherever two-phase gas-liquid flows occur, such as in physico-chemical or biological water treatment systems; water production via the Sabatier, Bosch, or Reverse Water Gas Shift reactors; oxygen generation assemblies; condensing heat exchangers; input streams to chemical sensors; and internal and external thermal control coolant loops. In addition to these ECLSS and ALS applications, the technology may also be employed to perform gas-liquid separations for In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) systems where water is produced from Martian atmospheric CO2.

Gas-Liquid Separation systems for use with microfluidic devices may be incorporated into a variety of Microelectromechanical (MEMS) and Microelectrochemical (MECS) systems. In microscale systems, capillary forces predominate, and buoyancy, which can be used for gas-liquid separations in larger scale systems, is often not effective. Potential MEMS and MECS devices incorporating the novel GLS technology include fuel cells, microreactors, and microscale sensors. Macro-scale applications include GLS systems for the removal of extremely small bubbles from turbulent two-phase flow regimes, and for phase separation in textile and chemical production industries where foaming is often a serious problem.

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.

Biomedical and Life Support
Waste Processing and Reclamation

Form Printed on 09-19-05 13:12