NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X3.02-8599
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Habitats, Habitability, and Human Factors
PROPOSAL TITLE: Electrical Power and Heat from Crew Waste Using an Integrated Solid Oxide Fuel Cell and Fixed-Bed Gasifier

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
ITN Energy Systems, Inc.
8130 Shaffer Parkway
Littleton, CO 80127-4107

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Paul Thoen
8130 Shaffer Parkway
Littleton, CO 80127-4107

ITN Energy Systems, Inc., along with the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), proposes to develop a highly efficient power generation system capable of converting habitat crew waste from NASA space habitats into electricity and heat. The system will consist of ITN's novel, low-temperature solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology, integrated with a revolutionary, highly efficient gasifier developed by EERC. The waste to energy converter will be specifically designed and engineered to efficiently convert onsite habitat crew waste into electricity and heat. The tight thermal integration of an SOFC to the gasifier will enable the operation of a sub-stoichiometric air gasifier at an elevated temperature (1000oC). At this temperature, the high levels of moisture inherent to habitat crew waste will function as an essential carbon gasifying medium, reducing the equivalence ratio at which the gasifier can operate with complete carbon conversion. By utilizing the moisture content of the food waste and the high temperature heat from the SOFC, the gasifier will operate with the addition of little or no air, generating producer gas that has not been heavily diluted with nitrogen. This high quality producer gas is an optimal fuel for a solid oxide fuel cell.

The development of a device that is capable of converting waste into electricity and heat could have numerous applications for NASA. The device could be utilized to convert crew habitat waste into heat and electricity for the crew, while at the same time eliminate the need for storing, hauling and disposing of the waste. This waste to energy device could be used on spaceships and space stations.

The U.S. military could use the device at forward deployed bases to convert waste into heat the electricity, with high efficiency and virtually no emissions or noise. The electricity can be used to power lights or for communications, while the excess heat can be used for space heating or cooking. The proposed approach would lead to dramatic reductions in the transportation logistics associated with sending resources to and removing waste from forward-deployed bases. In addition, a device that converts waste and trash into electricity could be used at single and multi-family dwellings as well as hospitals, schools and government buildings.