NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:Critical Technologies for In-Space Application of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion
PROPOSAL TITLE:Development and Evaluation of Mixed Uranium-Refractory Carbide/Refractory Carbide Cer-Cer Fuels

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
New Era Technology
3720 NW 43rd Street, Suite 105
Gainesville, FL 32606-6190
(352) 380-9880

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Travis    Knight
3720 NW 43rd Street
Gainesville, FL  32606-6190
(352) 380-9880

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
In this proposal a new carbide-based fuel is introduced with outstanding potential to eliminate the loss of uranium, minimizes the loss of uranium, and retains fission products for many hours of operation in hydrogen environment at temperatures in excess of 3,200K. The proposed fuel is a ceramic-ceramic (CerCer) composite of mixed uranium-refractory carbides such as (U, Zr)C or (U, Zr, Nb)C in a matrix of refractory carbides that mostly include transition metal carbides such as ZrC, NbC, TaC, and HfC. Due to its low neutron absorption cross-section, ZrC is the primary refractory carbide of choice. Replacing ZrC with higher temperature refractory carbides such as TaC and HfC could further improves the high temperature performance of CerCer fuels. However, higher neutron absorption cross-section penalty for Ta and Hf could potentially offset the performance enhancement gain. Due to complete containment and encapsulation of mixed uranium carbide in zirconium carbide matrix, the proposed CerCer fuel could be conveniently fabricated to different geometrical shapes such as solid block prismatic, twisted ribbon, pebbles, wafer, or square lattice honeycomb. Considering the operational parameters for the NT/BP systems, it is reasonable to argue that the proposed CerCer fuel concept could set the upper material performance limits while providing more flexibility in the geometrical design of the fuel.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The success of the proposed Phase II research program will result in the development of a new nuclear fuel with optimum performance characteristics for use in NTP and Bimodal Propulsion systems. The main idea behind the development of the uranium-carbide CerCer design is to come up with a fuel that features the highest performance potential in the areas including operational temperature margin, stability in hot hydrogen, retention of fission products, and mechanical properties. The uranium CerCer fuel systems possess fundamental physical and chemical properties well above the state of the art carbon based fuels and cermets. Considering fundamental materials properties as we have known them, the proposed uranium- carbide CerCer uniquely combines all the right properties to make the best and most robust fuel for the NTP and Bimodal Propulsion applications. Potential applications for NASA include the use the new fuel in high power orbital transfer vehicles for movement of commercial assets in space.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The innovative CerCer composite fuel has potential for making a revolutionary and tangible impact on commercial nuclear power operation in the world. All six technology concepts identified in the Generation IV Technology Roadmap are being pursued by the United States and its Gen IV International Forum (GIF) partners would require the development and use of advanced high temperature nuclear fuels to meet program goals. In particular, the CerCer composite fuel could play unique role in enabling the practical use of Very-High-Temperature Reactor (VHTR) and Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor (GFR) for reliable and safe operation at very high coolant temperatures (1,300 ? 1,500 K) that are needed for thermochemical production of hydrogen and/or electricity production with high efficiency. For operation at such high temperatures, mixed uranium carbides are the only potential competition for CerCer composite fuels.

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.

Multifunctional/Smart Materials
Nuclear (Adv Fission, Fusion, Anti-Matter, Exotic Nuclear)
Nuclear Conversion

Form Printed on 07-25-06 17:04