NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 X2.03-8631
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Nuclear Thermal Propulsion
PROPOSAL TITLE: Improved CVD Coatings for Carbide Based Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Fuel Elements

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Technology Assessment & Transfer, Inc.
133 Defense Highway, Suite 212
Annapolis, MD 21401 - 8907
(410) 224-3710

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Larry Fehrenbacher
133 Defense Highway, Suite 212
Annapolis, MD 21401 - 8907
(410) 224-3710

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
One of the great hurdles to further development and evaluation of nuclear thermal propulsion systems is the issue surrounding the release of radioactive material from the fuel during ground testing and its subsequent impact on test facility siting and operation. Therefore, the development of a crack resistant coating system on nuclear thermal propulsion fuel elements that is insensitive to hydrogen corrosion and erosion is considered enabling. Technology Assessment & Transfer Inc. (TA&T) proposes a systematic approach for CVD deposition and evaluation of a family of niobium carbide (NbC) coating systems for both uranium carbide-zirconium carbide solid solution [(U,Zr)C] and advanced triple carbide (uranium carbide-ziconium carbide-niobium carbide) solid fuel elements designed for use in space nuclear power and propulsion reactors. These refractory metal coating systems will be evaluated in high temperature hydrogen and helium in concert with a preliminary performance modeling effort.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The development of a high quality coating for space nuclear reactors will be enabling for the development of nuclear thermal propulsion, in particular if one uses fuel elements based on the Rover/NERVA heritage design or the Pebble Bed design. These coatings are considered a critical technology for first in-space applications of solid core nuclear thermal propulsion systems. The higher specific impulses afforded by NTP will provide significantly shorter travel times to the moon and Mars, reducing the time in zero gravity for manned missions and greatly increasing the speed of cargo/supply deliveries and unmanned exploration missions.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The development of a high quality coating for space nuclear reactor fuel elements could have potential across a variety of nuclear applications. A variety of designs exist for the next generation nuclear power plant, such as the Gas Cooled Fast Reactor (GCFR) and the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR). In the case of both of these the final fuel form has not been decided. The triso fuel particle has been suggested for both as well as clad solid fuel pins. Either of these two fuel forms could benefit from an improved fuel coating of this type. The idea of using mixed carbides (U,Zr)C, (U,Nb)C, which would allow for much higher operating temperatures, for both pellets and solid fuel pins has been put forth and both would require a cladding material. Most of these systems will operate above the temperature limit of SiC or would have compatibility issues with the standard C/C/SiC/C (triso) coating developed for pebble type fuel. The case of the VHTR the reactor has the ability to generate hydrogen by splitting water molecules, the presence of hydrogen and oxygen pose serious problems for the triso coating.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (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.)
Coatings/Surface Treatments
Destructive Testing
Lifetime Testing
Models & Simulations (see also Testing & Evaluation)
Simulation & Modeling
Spacecraft Main Engine

Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12