NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


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) 863-2655

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

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Development of a microgravity and hypogravity compatible microwave 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. Efficient production of hydrogen from methane was conclusively demonstrated during Phase I using microwave plasmas with power levels ranging between 50 - 120 W. In the plasma reactor, formation and deposition of solid phase elemental carbon was shown to be far less problematic than for current methods of catalytic methane decomposition in fixed bed and fluidized bed reactors. This new technology has strong potential for continuous hydrogen production over extended time periods, with minimal maintenance and operator intervention. Microwave plasmas produce extremely high temperatures localized within very small volumes, resulting in low overall power requirements. Microwave plasmas also produce minimal thermal effects on downstream piping and other system components. These features provide the basis for a small, light, and low power method for hydrogen reclamation. By recovering all of the hydrogen which is lost as methane in the Sabatier reactor, the requirement for production or resupply of hydrogen is reduced to the absolute minimum.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The NASA application of this technology will be as Flight Hardware for deployment in support of future long duration exploration objectives such as a Space Station retrofit, Lunar Outpost, 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 Exploration 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.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
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 07-25-06 17:04