NASA is actively working towards missions involving crewed habitats for extended stays on the lunar surface and other similar environments in space. Environmental control of these habitats is enabled by use of thermal control systems to maintain conditions within a tight band. These thermal control systems must be highly reliable, lightweight, and able to effectively control cabin and equipment temperatures to within several degrees under varying heat loads. In these systems, the pump is often the only dynamic component and thus poses the greatest risk of failure. To address this need, Creare has developed a compact, gravity-insensitive gas trap capable of passively sequestering, then venting non-condensable gas buildup in liquid coolant loops. The gas trap is fully welded with metallic wetted surfaces, can be regenerated to eliminate fouling, and is compatible with operation in extreme environments. In Phase I, we will prove the feasibility of this approach by developing a preliminary gas trap design, demonstrating key processes involved in fabrication of the gas trap including development of the superhydrophobic titanium porous tube, and characterizing a subscale gas trap through laboratory testing. In Phase II, we will fabricate a gas trap capable of serving a multi-kW spaceborne thermal coolant loop, demonstrate its performance in a representative thermal environment, and deliver it to NASA for further performance evaluation.
Gas traps are needed for enhanced reliability in thermal control for NASA missions including on-board the ISS. The current proposed effort would enable high reliability coolant loops for use in future lunar habitats or extreme environments circulating low-surface-tension fluids. Other governmental applications (e.g., DoD) are similar to NASA uses, specifically high reliability coolant loops operating in extreme environments for aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles.
The superhydrophobic membrane development has commercial applications for various chemical industries including steam separation and chemical processing with two-phase caustic chemical flows. The gas trap itself has application in high reliability coolant with minimal available maintenance such as in nuclear power plants or in other remote power stations.