NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation

FORM B - PROPOSAL SUMMARY


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X6.06-8471
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In-Space Propulsion (Electric/Magnetic)
PROPOSAL TITLE: Lithium Propellant Purification and Filtration System For LFA and MPD Thrusters

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Starfire Industries LLC
60 Hazelwood Drive
Champaign, IL 61820-7460
(708)955-6691

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Robert A. Stubbers
rstubbers@starfireindustries.com
60 Hazelwood Drive
Champaign, IL 61820-7460
(217)390-2784

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)
Lithium has been proposed as an attractive metal propellant for advanced nuclear-electric propulsion missions in the outer solar system. While it is low molecular weight for high Isp and had high conductivity for MPD acceleration, it is also corrosive to most metals, leeches elements from alloys, destroys dielectric insulators and is heavily prone to contamination. Porous metal electrodes, valves and plumbing can become clogged by lithium oxide, nitride and carbide formation and deposits. Impurities in liquid lithium also enhance metal flaking and tankage erosion.

The design of a lithium purification and filtration system using highly porous gettering materials, hot/cold trap filters, gas desorption, and liquid metal pumping is proposed in this Phase I research effort. The goal is to eliminate clogging and contamination effects for long-duration space missions >5 years where buildup can be a show-stopper. Exerimental testing and validation of material configurations will lead to a prototype lithium purification and flitration system in Phase II.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (LIMIT 100 WORDS)
The propsed filtration and purification system support critical component development for long-duration lithium-based propulsion systems or advanced nuclear reactor designs with lithium as the primary coolant. This technology could be applicable to other liquid metal propellants as well, such as sodium or bismuth. This technology is ideal for deep space propulsion and advanced electric missions to outer solar system.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (LIMIT 100 WORDS)
There are commerical applications in the semiconductor plasma EUV light generation, medical and industrial purification. In addition, there is large interest in the nuclear fusion industry for plasma-facing material protection and impurity removal. There is the potential for near-term product capability within all three markets.