The NASA objective of expanding the human experience into the far reaches of space requires regenerable life support systems. This proposal addresses the fabrication of structured (monolithic), carbon-based trace-contaminant (TC) sorbents for the space suit used in Extravehicular Activities (EVAs). The proposed innovations are: (1) the use of thin-walled, structured carbon TC sorbents fabricated using three-dimensional (3D) printing; and (2) the patented low-temperature oxidation step used for the treatment of carbons derived from polymers compatible with 3D printing. The overall objective is to develop a trace-contaminant removal system that is rapidly vacuum-regenerable and that possesses substantial weight, size, and power-requirement advantages with respect to the current state of the art. The Phase 1 objectives are: (1) to demonstrate the feasibility of using 3D printing to create plastic monoliths with complex geometry, subsequently converted into effective TC sorbents upon carbonization and activation, while preserving much of their original shape and strength; (2) to demonstrate effective ammonia and formaldehyde removal in the presence of CO2 and humidity; also, sorbent regeneration; and (3) to deliver a sorbent prototype to NASA for further sub-scale testing. This will be accomplished in three tasks: (1) Sorbent Fabrication and Characterization; (2) Sorbent Testing; and (3) Product Assessment.
The main application of the proposed technology would be in spacecraft life-support systems, mainly in extravehicular activities (space suit), but after modifications also in cabin-air revitalization.
The developed technology may find applications in air-revitalization on board US Navy submarines, in commercial and military aircraft, in the future air-conditioning systems for green buildings, and in advanced scuba-diving systems.