NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation

FORM B - PROPOSAL SUMMARY


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X1.03-8560
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In-Situ Resource Processing and Refining
PROPOSAL TITLE: Microchannel Reactors for ISRU Applications Using Nanofabricated Catalysts

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Makel Engineering,Inc.
1585 Marauder Street
Chico, CA 95973-9064
(530)895-2770

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Darby B. Makel
dmakel@makelengineering.com
1585 Marauder Street
Chico, CA 95973-9064
(530)895-2771

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)
Makel Engineering, Inc. (MEI) and USRA propose to develop microchannel reactors for In-Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) using nanofabricated catalysts. The proposed technology seeks to develop and demonstrate an exoskeletal support concept using carbon nanotubes (CNT) as catalyst support within microchannel reactors. Affordable planning and execution of prolonged manned space missions depend upon the utilization of local resources and the waste products which are formed in manned spacecraft and surface bases. Successful ISRU will require component technologies which provide optimal size, weight, volume, and power efficiency. The use of advanced CNT supported catalysts within the microchannel reactor structure will enable the efficient chemical processing of in-situ resources. The reactors can be designed for the processes that generate the most benefit for each mission. For instance, propellants (methane) can be produced from carbon dioxide from the Mars atmosphere using the Sabatier reaction and ethylene can be produced from the partial oxidation of methane. Ethylene is a feedstock for systems to synthesize ethanol and polyethylene. Polyethylene can be used in the construction of habitats, tools, and replacement parts. Ethanol can be used as a nutrient for Astrobiology experiments, as well as a precursor for the production of nutrients (e.g. sugars) for human crew.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (LIMIT 100 WORDS)
The development of highly efficient microchannel reactors will be applicable to multiple ISRU programs. Propellants can be produced from carbon dioxide (Mars atmosphere). Ethylene can be produced from methane. Methane reformation can produce hydrogen on board rovers to feed fuel cell power systems.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (LIMIT 100 WORDS)
The most significant commercial application is the development of reformers for fuel cell systems. The uses range from stationary power generation, distributed power, to transportation applications.