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Catalytic N2O Decomposition for Piloted Scramjet Ignition

Award Information

Department of Defense
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2010 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Reaction Systems, LLC
17301 W. Colfax Avenue #160 Golden, CO -
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 2
Fiscal Year: 2010
Title: Catalytic N2O Decomposition for Piloted Scramjet Ignition
Agency: DOD
Contract: FA8650-10-C-2097
Award Amount: $750,000.00


High speed air breathing engines can deliver payloads with vehicles that are smaller and lighter than rocket powered vehicles. Unfortunately, ignition and flame holding in scramjet engines has proven to be difficult, particularly with cold hardware and low-volatility fuels such as JP-7. Although methods to improve ignition and flame holding have been evaluated, improvements are still needed. A very effective way to improve scramjet performance would be to catalytically decompose nitrous oxide into a very hot, about 2500 degrees F, mixture of oxygen and nitrogen which could be used either in a pilot ignition flame or in a barbotage fuel injector. Unfortunately, traditional catalysts cannot withstand this temperature without losing their activity very rapidly. However, Reaction Systems has developed thermally stable catalysts that have high initial activity and will remain active after exposure to these extreme temperatures. In Phase I, we showed that our catalysts met the criteria for this application and we produced conceptual designs of an N2O storage and delivery system and a counter flow catalytic heat exchanger/reactor. The overall objective of the Phase II project is to advance the technology to the point that we can demonstrate the effectiveness of N2O decomposition on a scramjet ground test engine. BENEFIT: The most immediate application of our catalyst technology would be to improve the performance of engines that power high speed, short flight duration vehicles. An effective ignition or fuel atomization system would greatly improve ignition reliability, flame stability, and overall performance. An effective N2O decomposition system could be used to provide breathing air for a variety of applications including firefighting and diving potentially reducing weight, providing increased maneuverability, and larger air inventories. In addition thermally stable catalysts needed for this application could also find use in the power generation industry where a catalyst could reduce NOX emissions by permitting operation under very lean conditions which reduces combustion temperature.

Principal Investigator:

David Wickham
Principal Investigator
(720) 352-7161

Business Contact:

Todd Leeson
Chief Financial Officer
(303) 881-7992
Small Business Information at Submission:

Reaction Systems, LLC
19039 E. Plaza Dr., Suite 290 Parker, CO -

EIN/Tax ID: 202875490
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No