After landing, the lunar lander liquid oxygen tank may contain as much as 5% residual oxygen that is pressurized with helium. TDA Research proposes to develop an oxygen recovery module which separates the helium from the oxygen so that the remaining high purity oxygen can be readily supplied to life-support equipment and fuel cells. The oxygen recovery module uses an advanced sorbent that has a high capacity and selectivity for oxygen, which minimizes the system’s mass and volume. The system operates using a pressure-swing adsorption cycle with automated valves, which require only minimal power for operation. The system does not require power-hungry equipment, such as heaters or compressors. In Phase I we will optimize the advanced sorbent for this application, optimize the adsorption/desorption cycles, and test the sorbent in realistic operating conditions with a helium-pressurized liquid oxygen tank. In Phase II we will build and test a high-fidelity prototype.
The main attraction of our research to NASA is its ability to provide a lightweight, compact and efficient O2 recovery system to reduce potential waste during from the propellant tanks vent lines that will minimize the expendable requirements. Following successful completion of the development, the unit may find application for use in the Lunar lander.
The new sorbent could find application in commodity oxygen production. The conventional Pressure Swing Adsorption based air separation systems that reversible adsorb nitrogen (but not oxygen) produces an expensive oxygen product. The sorbent developed in this project could be used in an oxygen selective PSA, which could potentially be smaller and more energy efficient.