NASA Awards PCI Phase I Contract To Develop Space Habitat CO2 Methanation System

(North Haven, January, 2011)

NASA has selected PCI to develop a novel Microlith® CO2 adsorber, separator and Methanation system for spacecraft/space habitat oxygen and fuel production.  The award is being made under a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program. 

PCI will be developing a CO2 separator and methanation reactor to effectively separate CO2 from the Martian atmosphere and to produce methane (CH4) and water vapor by reacting the collected CO2 with H2.  A Microlith®-based, regenerable CO2 adsorber/separator will be integrated with a compact and lightweight Microlith®-based reactor. CO2 conversion in the methanation reactor is expected to be greater than 90% with CH4 selectivity of as high as 100%.  While thin, the Mars Atmosphere is comprised almost entirely of carbon dioxide.  The technology will provide the potential for use of Mars in-situ resources for producing fuel and oxygen to extend the range of human/robotic planetary exploration.

PCI has previously developed catalytic reactors for NASA's Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) for the space station and other spacecraft.  Results have demonstrated superiority in power consumption, weight, and size to existing technologies. This new integrated adsorber and catalytic reactor technology offers a further step forward towards establishing a human outpost on Mars.

This technology also offers the potential for use of methanation reactors in fuel cells to convert reformate gas into methane-rich syngas that has potential to add thousands of hours of life to the fuel cell stack. In addition, methanation reactors also offer potential use in other processes such as the Haber process in ammonia production as well as part of the Integrated Gasification Combined cycle (IGCC) for cleaner power production from coal.  Separately, the adsorber technology can be used as part of collective protection shelter for Chemical-Biological Defense applications.

Dr. Christian Junaedi, the Project’s Principal Investigator, commented,

“Efficient production of life support needs such as water and oxygen, along with reactants and propellants from in-situ resources, is crucial for deep exploration of space where  re-supply is extremely difficult.  Successful completion of the project offers highly selective processing to support oxygen and fuel production from the Martian atmosphere, and would be very helpful towards establishing a human outpost on Mars."

Precision Combustion, Inc. is a clean energy technology company developing and manufacturing catalytic devices and systems for energy sector applications. To learn more, visit www.precision-combustion.com.

The U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program seeks to stimulate technological innovation through competitive solicitations targeted to solve government agency objectives. Approximately one in eight Phase I proposals are funded for proof-of-concept R&D, with 40%-45% of those advancing to a Phase II for sustained development. Winners keep the rights to technology developed and are encouraged to commercialize the technology.

For more information, contact: Tony Anderson
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