NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 A2.02-7780
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Electric and Intelligent Propulsion Technologies for Environmentally Harmonious Aircraft
PROPOSAL TITLE: Sulfur-Tolerant Autothermal Reforming Catalysts for Aviation Fuel

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
NexTech Materials, Ltd.
404 Enterprise Dr.
Lewis Center, OH 43035-9423

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Scott L. Swartz
404 Enterprise Dr.
Lewis Center, OH 43035-9423

As solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) approach commercialization, interest in broader applications of this technology is mounting. While the first commercialized systems are being designed to provide 3-5 kW in stationary and automotive auxiliary power unit (APU) applications, military and aerospace users are already considering integrating SOFCs into larger, airborne systems with considerable commercial payback. SOFCs are aligned to displace inefficient, noisy, and polluting technologies such as diesel generators that will provide both economic and environmental motivation to prospective users. NexTech Materials proposes to develop sulfur-tolerant autothermal reforming (ATR) catalysts for fuel processors of SOFC systems that operate with sulfur-containing aviation (Jet-A) fuels. The Phase I work will focus on synthesis and characterization of novel composite catalysts, design and construction of a reactor for catalyst performance tests, and evaluation of the performance of experimental catalysts for autothermal reforming of Jet-A fuel. Phase II of the project will involve further optimization of catalyst formulations, scale-up of the catalyst synthesis technology, development of monolith-supporting technology for the catalysts, and evaluation of monolith-supported catalysts in prototype ATR reformers.

The primary application for the proposed catalyst technology is for fuel processing components of solid oxide fuel cell systems. One of the key limitations to near-term commercialization of SOFC systems for aerospace applications is the lack of catalyst materials that will allow SOFCs to operate on existing aviation fuels. With successful development of such catalysts, SOFC systems can be integrated with gas turbines in auxiliary power units for commercial jet airliners, with expected advantages of reduced fuel consumption and substantially lower emissions of NOX and other pollutants.

The catalyst technology will enable development of efficient and environmentally friendly SOFC based power generation systems for a number of military, automotive, and commercial applications involving operation on liquid hydrocarbon fuels (gasoline, diesel, propane, etc.). For example, all branches of the U.S. military have critical unmet needs for strategic field power generation systems operating on existing logistic (diesel) fuels. Sulfur-tolerant reforming catalysts are required for SOFC devices being developed for such applications. Further, the proposed catalysts will be applicable to fuel processors in SOFC systems being developed for auxiliary power units for cars, trucks and recreational vehicles.