NASA SBIR 2011 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 11-2 X8.03-9866
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Space Nuclear Power Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Innovative High Temperature Heat Pipes for Spacecraft Nuclear Fission Systems

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.
1046 New Holland Avenue
Lancaster, PA 17601 - 5688
(717) 295-6061

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Kara L Walker
1046 New Holland Ave
Lancaster, PA 17601 - 5688
(717) 295-6081

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
NASA Glenn is examining small fission reactors for future space transportation and surface power applications. The reactors would have an 8 to 15 year design life and should be available for a 2020 launch to support future NASA science missions. Both 1 kWe thermoelectric and 3 kWe Stirling systems have been examined. Heat pipes are being examined to transfer the thermal energy from the reactor to the electric conversion systems. There are three types of wicks that can carry this power over the distance; grooved, sintered arterial and self-venting arterial. Arterial heat pipes are the default design for spacecraft nuclear reactors; however, de-priming of the artery due to radiation is a serious potential problem. Grooved and self-venting arterial heat pipes are less susceptible to de-priming since the liquid in the grooves is open to the vapor space and the self-venting arterial heat pipe has venting pores in the evaporator to allow trapped vapor to escape. ACT's innovation was to examine the tradeoffs between the three heat pipe wicks and determine an optimum wick design that is suitable for fission reactor applications. The Phase I project was successful in demonstrating that all three types of wicks can transport the necessary power.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The immediate NASA application is for space fission nuclear reactors that utilize Stirling converters or thermoelectric for power conversion. Specifically, the 1kWe Fission Power System with a 15 year design life. The alkali metal heat pipes developed in this program would be capable of transporting the reactor heat to the Stirling or thermoelectric convertors for power generation.

The Stirling system and other space nuclear reactors also require radiator panels to reject waste heat. The grooved and self-venting arterial heat pipes developed on this program will also be suitable to the lower temperature radiator heat pipes.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The high temperature heat pipes developed under this program can also be used for waste heat energy recovery and utilization, specifically for automotive engines and military generator sets. The exhaust heat generated in these applications is considered high-grade heat and would require alkali metal heat pipes for collection and transportation. The high temperature heat pipes developed under this program could be used to collect the high-grade exhaust heat and transfer it to either a catalyst convertor to reduce the energy needed for vehicle startup or to Stirling engines for electrical energy generation. A second application is high temperature solar receivers. These devices are currently being investigated to provide the necessary thermal power to aid in alternate energy generation. The thermochemical reduction processes used to generate alternate energy must be performed at very high temperatures. The high temperature heat pipes developed in this program could be used to transfer the thermal energy collected by a solar receiver to a reactor to aid in the thermochemical reduction process.

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.)
Passive Systems
Space Transportation & Safety
Spacecraft Main Engine

Form Generated on 09-03-12 17:04