NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 X2.03-8779
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Nuclear Thermal Propulsion
PROPOSAL TITLE: Ductile Tungsten-Rhenium Coating for Long-Term Protection of Nuclear-Thermal Rocket Fuel

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
12173 Montague Street
Pacoima, CA 91331 - 2210
(818) 899-0236

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Brian E. Williams
Pacoima, CA 91331 - 2210
(818) 899-0236 Extension :125

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

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
In conjunction with Sandia National Laboratories, Ultramet previously demonstrated the feasibility of using low-density, high specific stiffness open-cell foams for creation of innovative fuel elements for use in space nuclear reactors. Highly porous and structural foam material was produced by chemical vapor infiltration of uranium, niobium, and zirconium carbides into a foam matrix. The foam structure and versatility in fuel composition were used to take advantage of the potential for high power density, high thermal efficiency, and small core size. The lifetime of this fuel material, as well as current pellet-type fuels in industry, would benefit greatly from the development of an impermeable surface coating that would prevent hydrogen attack of the underlying fuel and contain fission products for extended periods. Tungsten is an attractive surface coating in terms of temperature capability, hydrogen compatibility, and neutronics, but is inherently brittle and prone to cracking when subjected to modest mechanical or thermal stress. Ultramet has extensive experience in development of tungsten alloys with improved ductility for applications including ballistic penetrators and liners for solid rocket motor throats. In this project, Ultramet will develop the processing for deposition of thin tungsten-rhenium alloy coatings on open-cell foam fuel elements. Components will be exposed to high temperature hydrogen at Ultramet, followed by surface and cross-sectional coating characterization. Sandia will perform preliminary modeling experiments to determine the optimal concentration of rhenium in the coating and coating thickness. The potential exists to utilize the proposed containment coating over a variety of high-efficiency open-cell foam fuels including carbides and cermets.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Propulsion technologies are sought that will enable dramatic improvements in space transportation safety, reliability, and cost. Key to this goal is the application of innovative, non-traditional propulsion technologies, devices, and systems that could significantly increase the structural margins of future launch systems and substantially reduce the mission times for interplanetary and deep-space spacecraft. Development of such technologies is sought to enable ambitious commercial, robotic, and human exploration missions in the future. Technology innovations are sought that would provide significant advancements in space transportation capability and lead to the development of safe, affordable, high-performance propulsion technologies, including high-efficiency nuclear-thermal and nuclear-electric propulsion systems which utilize a nuclear fission reactor for propulsion as well as production of the large amount of electrical energy required for scientific instruments (including deep penetrating radar), mission design options, and telecommunications.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
In addition to compact, high-performance space reactors, the proposed technology will assist development of ion drive, plasma thrusters, and fusion propulsion. The tungsten-rhenium-coated fuel could also contribute to a new DOE Generation IV power system that significantly lowers cost, improves passive safety, has no carbon dioxide emissions, uses an advanced, proliferation-resistant fuel cycle, and reduces nuclear waste. The fuel could also be used in ground-based power or in portable power systems for military or surveillance applications and remote deployment, as well as impact other applications in electronics, aerospace, and catalysis.

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
Models & Simulations (see also Testing & Evaluation)
Processing Methods
Simulation & Modeling
Spacecraft Main Engine

Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12