Novel Trace Contaminant Sorbent for Spacesuit Life Support Systems Wins NASA SBIR Phase II Project

Spacesuit Cropped


April 26th, 2017

(North Haven, CT) Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI) announced today it has been awarded a NASA Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project for its Trace Contaminant Control System (TCCS) technology for Advanced Spacesuit Applications.

PCI is developing a lightweight and regenerable TCCS for spacesuits. Astronauts breathe recycled air, and spacesuit air must be cleaned of trace contaminants such as ammonia and organic compounds to keep the air safe and maintain crew comfort. PCI’s proposed system uses a novel long-life nanomaterial sorbent to capture the contaminants, with periodic on-suit vacuum regeneration to remove them from the system. Unlike currently-used activated charcoal beds that cannot be regenerated and that are bulky, require frequent replacement, and have high life cycle operating cost, PCI’s sorbent is very compact and regenerable, has high sorption capacity, requires less energy for operation, and can be tailored to targeted requirements. A regenerable TCCS technology will help enable longer Extravehicular Activity (EVA) missions.

In Phase I, PCI demonstrated proof-of-concept of a new material paradigm based on functionalized sorbent nanomaterials that can effectively remove ammonia and formaldehyde, and can be regenerated under vacuum. The ability to regenerate these sorbent materials on-the-suit results in a low power, compact, and lightweight TCCS compared to the current state-of-the-art technology. In Phase II, PCI will build on the success to develop, fabricate, and demonstrate a compact, low pressure drop, vacuum-regenerable TCCS prototype.

Dr. Christian Junaedi, the project’s principal investigator, noted, “This is a great opportunity to further develop our sorbent nanomaterials for removing trace contaminants. In this case, the material will be functionalized to target ammonia and formaldehyde. With success, the technology will be very valuable to NASA and space industry as it would significantly reduce the current spacesuit life support system technical risks and increase mission capability while at the same time maturing the novel vacuum regenerable TCCS.”

President Kevin Burns remarked, “If astronauts are to move freely in space and on other planets, they will need spacesuit life support systems that can sustain them for longer missions. Our regenerable trace contaminant control technology will support this. And as always, our NASA life support projects will also help improve life here on Earth - the lightweight, low-pressure drop, and energy efficient features of our designed nanomaterial sorbent will create multiple opportunities for more efficient and effective air cleaning for buildings and residences, as well as for industrial gas applications.”

PCI’s new nanostructured sorbent material has high sorption capacity, the ability to be functionalized towards targeted molecules, and reduced energy requirements for regeneration. The material offers new economic drivers for air cleaning and air quality improvement applications, such as in commercial buildings and industrial plants. PCI will also be investigating additional applications in aircraft trace contaminant control and air purification system, where the compact size, low weight, and increased operating time of the sub-system can bring value.

PCI is looking for partners interested in specific applications for this new material technology.

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