NASA SBIR 2011 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 11-1 X1.01-9593
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In-Situ Resource Characterization, Extraction, Transfer, and Processing
PROPOSAL TITLE: Flexible Transfer of Regolith in Micro-Gravity and Vacuum

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Grainflow Dynamics, Inc.
1141 Catalina Drive, PMB 270
Livermore, CA 94550 - 5928
(925) 447-4293

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Otis Walton
1141 Catalina Drive, PMB 270
Livermore, CA 94550 - 5928
(925) 447-4293

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 3

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
A novel, robust method of collection and transfer of NEO/Phobos material under micro-gravity conditions under vacuum/space environment with minimal loss of volatiles will be developed and its feasibility demonstrated. The same designs can also be utilized in lunar or Martian applications with only minor modifications. Design of the light-weight flexible conveyor ducts will utilize recently verified regolith simulation software to assure that the concepts are viable under microgravity conditions, and prototypes will be tested under vacuum conditions in Phase-1 (and under micro-gravity during Phase-2). Depending on the drill-head/feeder design selected, these flexible transfer ducts could be used in extraction of material from depths of a meter or more below the surface. Under Martian conditions a 1-cm-diameter conveying duct could deliver 5 kg/hr of material to a processing station for extraction/processing of volatiles. Trade-off studies during Phase-1 will determine potential power saving (if any) in larger diameter conveying ducts (e.g., 1.5 or 2cm dia) and/or the power requirements in a smaller diameter conveying duct (e.g. 0.5 cm dia) under Martian conditions. Unlike conventional screw conveyors, these flexible transfer ducts would be robust to oversize material up to a size of one-half the transfer duct radius. Coupled with an oversize-rejection inlet feeder, the system could provide high reliability transfer of loose regolith with one or two major moving parts. Modular designs are possible, as is the incorporation of energy-efficient ultrasonic (or percussion) drill heads, or sensors near a sub-surface inlet.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Modular flexible conveyor ducts can transport regolith horizontally, on inclines, or vertically, and can be designed to operate at any gravity level. Conveying efficiency improves as gravity is reduced . Each module is comprised of a thin outer duct, containing a novel light-weight flexible conveyor core. Transport is totally enclosed and dust-free. The design is robust and tolerant of occasional oversize particles. Minimal maintenance is required, and distances of many 10's of meters could be traversed with no back-and-forth driving of rovers, no dust generation, and consistent steady delivery of material. Beneficiation modules with screen-wire sieves are also possible. For larger operations or longer distances, multiple units could be daisy chained together. Various (ultrasonic or percussion) cutter-drill-heads or feeders could be employed to allow efficient extraction of material at depth. With additional development of drill-head feeder designs, extraction from depths of multiple meters could be achieved.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The light-weight flexible nature of the novel conveying-core designs proposed for these regolith transport ducts may be suitable for many conventional bulk material transport operations. The light-weight duct-walls for space applications may need to be replaced with heavier, more robust tube walls for long duration continuous-use terrestrial applications. Also the overall distances for screw-conveyor transport that make economic sense under terrestrial gravity, are shorter than would be the case under reduced gravity. Since the mode of flow in these proposed flexible-ducts is significantly different than that used in most conventional screw conveyors, the range of potential applications may cover a wider variety of configurations than are used by conventional rigid screw conveyors. Many terrestrial solids transfer applications where pneumatic transport is currently the best option, may be candidates for the mechanically fluidized flow in the proposed flexible duct conveyors.

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.)
In Situ Manufacturing
Processing Methods
Resource Extraction

Form Generated on 11-22-11 13:43