NASA SBIR 02-1 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:02- B3.01-9666 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 022333 )
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Advanced Spacecraft Life Support
PROPOSAL TITLE: Mesoporous Catalysts for Ambient Temperature Aqueous Phase Oxidation

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Umpqua Research Company
P.O. Box 609
Myrtle Creek , OR   97457 - 0102
(541 ) 863 - 7770

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James R. Akse, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 609
Myrtle Creek , OR   97457 - 0102
(541 ) 863 - 7770

Innovative ambient temperature oxidation catalysts based upon transition metal containing mesoporous supports are proposed. The self-assembly of amphiphilic surfactants, co-solvents, and oxide network formers is utilized to produce monolithic gels that can be readily converted to amorphous mesoporous oxide structures by thermal treatment. Using this approach, open structured mixed transition metal oxide supports with greater than 70% porosity composed of interconnected 10-30 nm pores with surface areas greater than 500 m2/g are formed. The catalytically significant transition metal sites are then combined with noble metal sites to produce highly active oxidation catalysts capable of ambient temperature operation due to enhanced oxidation activity combined with reduced mass transfer resistance compared to conventional catalysts. The Water Recovery System (WRS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS) uses a conventional catalyst to oxidize problematic organic contaminants that are difficult to remove by other methods. To provide sufficient oxidation, the three-phase reactor operates at 130*C and 0.50 MPa. Replacement of the current catalyst with one capable of ambient temperature operation will dramatically reduce WRS energy usage and system complexity. The Phase I project will demonstrate the feasibility of this approach. The Phase II program will deliver a prototype catalyst capable of efficiently oxidizing organic contaminants at ambient temperature.

Ambient temperature aqueous phase oxidation catalysts will have numerous commercial applications. These include the elimination of organic contaminants present in wastewater or groundwater, or as an integrated component utilized for the production of ultra-pure water. Ambient temperature operation is an extremely attractive attribute for in situ environmental clean-up using a pump and treat system or where a reactive barrier must be incorporated to contain the spread of a contaminant plume. Current non-catalytic ultra-pure water production technologies focus along specific lines which do not effectively eliminate all contaminants and which will be challenged as maximum contaminant levels are lowered in the next generation facility. Ambient temperature catalytic processes will help meet these higher water quality standards in a cost effective manner. As a result of the Phase II effort, UMPQUA Research Company (URC) will have a working prototype catalyst to help market this process.

The most readily apparent NASA application will be as a catalyst replacement in the Volatile Removal Assembly (VRA) within the current Water Recovery System (WRS) allowing ambient temperature operation of this component, and thereby, reducing system energy usage and complexity. As such, the catalyst will be purchased as Flight Hardware by NASA, or by an aerospace contracting firm on behalf of NASA, resulting in enhanced capability in support of manned missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond where minimization of expendables and low power requirements are highly valued. In addition, ambient temperature catalysts allow purification at the point of use wherever organic contaminants tend to accumulate due to contamination from storage containers such as in the current generation of Contingency Water Containers (CWCs) used to transfer water from the Shuttle to the ISS.

Form Printed on 09-05-02 10:10