Mainstream proposes to develop a high-efficiency carbon removal system to safely collect and dispose of sub-micron carbon particulates generated from oxygen recovery systems. A cyclone separator reduces the total particulate matter loading while collecting larger particles (i.e., 1–10 µm, >10 µm). The remaining sub-micron particles (i.e. 0.1–1 µm) are then removed using an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), which drives particles entrained in the gas stream onto a collection electrode. Mainstream will optimize the geometry, electrode material, and key operational parameters to achieve a very high efficiency (>99%) for particles down to 0.1 µm. Collection electrodes can be regenerated in place through gas reaction or removed and scraped for safe storage and reuse or disposal, retaining all carbon particles. In Phase I, Mainstream will leverage our existing CFD and design toolsets to experimentally demonstrate sub-micron particulate separation with a combined cyclone and ESP system. Regeneration of electrodes would occur in-place or be used for safe disposal of carbon. Using process model designs and experimental data, Mainstream will design a carbon removal system and detail system size, weight, and power requirements. In Phase II, we will fabricate and validate a full-scale prototype system and advance system development for rapid integration.
NASA applications for the proposed carbon removal system for sub-micron particulates separation include integration with oxygen recovery systems for future long-duration manned missions such as Gateway and Mars. Additionally, this technology is applicable for both general air purification of the main cabin of the manned spacecraft as well as the removal of planetary dust from main cabins and airlocks of the planetary habitat.
Non-NASA applications are numerous including automotive, thermal oxidizers, incinerators, industrial separators, commercial/medical/residential air purification, and particulate concentrators. With respect to additional manned spacecraft, non-government commercial entities such as Space-X, Blue Origin, Bigelow Aerospace, and others include space tourism as a future goal