The NASA objective of expanding the human experience into the far reaches of space requires regenerable life support systems. This proposal addresses the fabrication of structured (monolithic), carbon-based trace-contaminant (TC) sorbents for the space suit used in Extravehicular Activities (EVAs). The proposed innovations are: (1) the use of thin-walled, structured carbon TC sorbents fabricated using three-dimensional (3D) printing; and (2) the patented low-temperature oxidation step used for the treatment of carbons derived from polymers compatible with 3D printing. The overall objective is to develop a trace-contaminant removal system that is rapidly vacuum-regenerable and that possesses substantial weight, size, and power-requirement advantages with respect to the current state of the art. The Phase 1 project successfully demonstrated 3D-printing of polymer precursors, along with carbonization and activation to produce monoliths with excellent shape, dimensional and ammonia adsorption/desorption properties. The Phase 2 objectives are: (1) to optimize sorbent properties and performance; (2) to design, construct, test, and deliver two full-scale TC sorbent prototypes; to provide guidelines for their integration with the PLSS. This work will be accomplished in six tasks: (1) Sorbent Development and Optimization; (2) Subscale Sorbent Testing at UTC Aerospace Systems; (3) Prototype Design; (4) Prototype Construction; (5) Prototype Testing; and (6) System Evaluation.
The main application of the proposed technology would be in spacecraft life-support systems, mainly in extravehicular activities (space suit), but after modifications also in cabin-air revitalization.
The developed technology may find applications in air-revitalization on board US Navy submarines, in commercial and military aircraft, in the future air-conditioning systems for green buildings, and in advanced scuba-diving systems.