NASA SBIR 2006 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 06-2 X4.02-8511
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Oxygen Production from Lunar Regolith
PROPOSAL TITLE: Modular Distributed Concentrator for Solar Furnace

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
DR Technologies, Inc.
7740 Kenamar Court
San Diego, CA 92121 - 2425
(858) 677-1226

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Theodore G Stern
7740 Kenamar Court
San Diego, CA 92121 - 2425
(858) 677-1230

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
This research proposes to develop the technology needed to implement a solar-fired regolith processing system at a lunar outpost that achieves low mass, high performance, easy assembly, operation and maintenance, and durability. The Modular Distributed Concentrator (MDC) comprises an array of identical, smaller-sized solar concentrator dishes with a network of power transmission links that route the high quality concentrated energy to a centralized receiver and avoids the challenges of deploying large concentrators with furnace chambers suspended at their focus. The Phase I showed the ability to optimize the concentrator reflector scale to provide low mass, showed that the heat pipe approach had better figures of merit than the optical waveguide approach, and, as a proof-of-concept, used a terrestrial solar concentrator to fire a sodium heat pipe to transmit heat at 1000C. The Phase II effort proposes to establish a system design for a MDC / heat-pipe based carbothermal processing system which requires >1625C process heat. We develop and demonstrate the components needed to deliver heat at this temperature with high performance, using space quality materials, including concentrator, concentrator receiver, tungsten/lithium heat pipe, and an innovative Heat Pipe Thermal Interface (HPTI) that most effectively transfers the power directly into the regolith. The Phase II includes an end-to-end demonstration of all of the subsystems, collecting and concentrating solar energy, transmitting it at >1625C, through the heat pipe and HPTI into the regolith, and extracting oxygen from regolith simulant in an existing process chamber.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The growth in photovoltaic applications has resulted in a critical shortage of solar grade silicon that could be alleviated through the establishment of renewable energy foundries based on the MDC approach. Because energy content is a large fraction of the cost of silicon wafers for solar cells, the commercialization of the MDC could result in more cost effective photovoltaics. In addition, the MDC Furnace could be applied as a renewable energy system to meet any industrial need for high temperature process heat. Of particular interest is the ability to apply the MDC system to a solar-fired centralized power system. The advent of economical Stirling engines have led to the start of large construction projects for arrays of kilowatt sized concentrator/Stirling units. Since MDC thermal outputs can be ganged together, arrays of concentrators could be hooked up to much larger power generators, providing economies of scale for not only Stirling, but also conventional turbine generators. This may have a significant benefit in capital cost per kilowatt, the driving cost for renewable energy power plants, and could also considerably reduce operation and maintenance costs associated with large arrays of small engines.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The target application for the MDC Furnace System is to process oxygen and other materials from lunar regolith; however, there are a variety of other NASA applications that could be implemented with this approach. High flux / high temperature solar concentrators can also be used for power and propulsion applications. The solar dynamic electrical prime power system using Rankine or Brayton conversion cycles and thermal energy storage was the subject of many years of development at NASA because of its potentially high payoff. The Integrated Solar Upper Stage also was the subject of much development, with a promise of very high specific impulse from super-heated hydrogen combined with a thermionic electrical power system. Both of these systems were hampered by the challenges of a large, high accuracy concentrator reflector, but could be enabled by the MDC approach delivering high power at high temperatures as proposed here.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

In-situ Resource Utilization
Renewable Energy
Thermodynamic Conversion

Form Generated on 08-02-07 14:39