NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:In-Situ Resource Utilization & Space Manufacturing
PROPOSAL TITLE:Plasma Reduction of Lunar Regolith for In-Space Fabrication

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Plasma Processes, Inc.
4914 Moores Mill Road
Huntsville, AL 35811-1558
(256) 851-7653

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
John Scott O'Dell
4914 Moore Mill Road
Huntsville, AL  35811-1558
(256) 851-7653

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Tools for extracting resources from the moon are needed to support future space missions. Of particular interest is the production of gases and metals for life support, propulsion, and in-space fabrication. The only practical source for these materials is the decomposition of lunar regolith. Described herein is an innovative plasma reduction technique for the production of gases and metal powders. This technique is characterized by its high temperatures and rapid quenching. During Phase 1, silicon, iron, and magnesium in crystalline form were produced using the plasma reduction technique. Based on the analysis of captured gas samples and the fact that metallic species were produced, oxygen was also evolved as a result of plasma processing. During Phase 2, the plasma techniques developed during Phase 1 will be optimized. Techniques to separate and collect pure oxygen from the regolith and the processing gases will be developed. Steps will be taken to reduce the power requirements needed for plasma reduction. Additional metals such as aluminum, titanium, and calcium will also be produced by varying processing parameters. Precise measurement of particle temperature and velocity will be performed and correlated with processing parameters and thermodynamic calculations so that these objectives can be met.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
NASA applications for the technology include production of metal powders for in-situ fabrication and oxygen for life support, habitat use, hydroponics, and propulsion. Applications for the metal powders that will be produced include, but are not limited to, solar cells, photovoltaics, rapid prototyping feedstock, radiation shielding, and structural applications. Potential applications for the plasma technology to be developed include high rate lunar plasma coating for insulation, pressure seals, radiation shielding and structure fabrication. In addition, the plasma processing technique can be used to produce agglutinate and glassy analog particles similar to those found in the lunar soil. These particles could be used as additives to current regolith simulants to produce a mature lunar soil simulant. This enhanced simulant would be available for researchers trying to validate lunar surface activities such as drilling, excavation, feeding through a hopper, and other friction and dust impacted technologies.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Potential commercial applications for metal powders include in-situ powder metallurgical products, ultra-thin protective coatings, high surface area/volume ratio catalysts, composite additives, sintering aids, porous structures in microfiltration membranes, additives for solid and hybrid rocket fuels that provide a more efficient combustion process, electrically-conductive adhesives and polymers, component materials for crew vehicles and habitats, semiconductor devices, and high-power electronics for electric vehicles.

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.

In-situ Resource Utilization
Optical & Photonic Materials
Radiation Shielding Materials

Form Printed on 07-25-06 17:04