NASA STTR 2017 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 171 T4.02-9808
RESEARCH SUBTOPIC TITLE: Regolith Resources Robotics - R^3
PROPOSAL TITLE: Regolith to Steel Powder, Oxygen & Water with Small Equipment

NAME: Rolf Miles Olsen NAME: Michigan State University
STREET: 7025 Alden Drive STREET: 428 S. Shaw Lane
CITY: West Bloomfield CITY: East Lansing
STATE/ZIP: MI  48324 - 2017 STATE/ZIP: MI  48824 - 4403
PHONE: (619) 238-4140 PHONE: (517) 884-8997

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr Rolf Miles Olsen
7025 Alden Drive
West Bloomfield, MI 48324 - 2017
(619) 238-4140

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr Rolf Miles Olsen
7025 Alden Drive
West Bloomfield, MI 48324 - 2017
(619) 238-4140

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Regolith Resources Robotics - R^3 is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
This proposal covers processing of raw Martian regolith to both an enriched iron ore and liberated water, and also iron ore reduction and oxygen production, metal purification and steel powder making. Our proposal uses heat re-cycling to improve the energy efficiency of both regolith-to-ore enrichment and iron ore reduction. This heat re-cycling creates a bonus, the liberation of water (formerly bound to the regolith) as liquid water and a relatively low temperature water vapor. This water can be retrieved with the addition of a small condenser unit and a water storage tank/heat sink. Iron (and other transition metal) oxides are reduced using a reducing gas mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide inside two multi-use vessels (MUVs, in which heat recycling is also done). The reduction makes metals, mostly iron, but also exhausts water and carbon dioxide. This exhaust is re-cycled to a water/carbon dioxide splitter that produces the hydrogen and carbon monoxide reducing gases and also oxygen. The preferred water/carbon dioxide splitter is a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) from Ceramatec (maker of the SOEC for NASA's MOXIE), and Ceramatec has asked to be included in the proposal with a budget placeholder as a supplier. Metal purification and steel powder making is done using carbonyl metallurgy techniques developed by BASF with a possible variation to replace steel powder making with metal vapor deposition to shaped steel objects (as previously advocated for by William Jenkins). It should be emphasized that the entire manufacturing chain, and an extended chain than includes 3D metal powder printing to finished steel objects, (i) can be operated by robots (that can also carry out ore mining), and (ii) the robots and equipment needed to carry out this mining and manufacturing chain can be made such that their entire combined total mass is small enough to fit in Mars landing craft payloads well under 2500 kg.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Martian iron ore mining through to steel-making, oxygen generation and water liberation, and then onto steel equipment fabrication, assembly and operation on Mars can start an expanding spiral of Martian activities for NASA. For example, it can produce more power generation equipment, such as re-orientable support structures for solar photovoltaic panels and steel solar parabolic dishes. Increasing electrical and thermal power generation on Mars is especially useful because almost all activities for human settlement of Mars need electrical and/or thermal power and all of these are limited (or given scope to expand) by the amount of such power that can be delivered. Steel-making and new power generation equipment can each facilitate an expansion of the capacity of the other, to create a coupled spiral of expansion of capacity. Expansions in the capacities of steel-making, steel fabrication and power generation, will also expand oxygen generation and water liberation capacities, but, also, expand capabilities in other areas; for example, panel- and scaffold-making for pressurized habitats, habitat plumbing and fixture manufacture, compressor, engine and spare part manufacture, and on. Steel-making, steel fabrication, power generation and robots can deliver Mars mission robustness by creating spare parts and extra parts that can be put to use to create settlement system reliability, self-repair and settlement growth.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposal's Martian iron ore processing could be applied to iron ore processing here on Earth. However, the economics of different methods of iron ore processing on Earth will be different from those on Mars, and it is unknown whether there is economic value for the process here on Earth. However, Martian steel-making uses zero carbon dioxide emissions iron oxide reduction. This realization has already caused an investigation into other methods for doing zero carbon dioxide emissions in iron oxide reduction here on Earth, that use renewable energy inputs, and this has caused the proposal's PI to draft patent applications for a new iron oxide reduction methods.

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.)
Algorithms/Control Software & Systems (see also Autonomous Systems)
Autonomous Control (see also Control & Monitoring)
In Situ Manufacturing
Pressure & Vacuum Systems
Process Monitoring & Control
Processing Methods
Resource Extraction
Robotics (see also Control & Monitoring; Sensors)

Form Generated on 04-19-17 12:45