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Zero-Emissions Technologies for Aircraft


Scope Title:

EnergyConversion for Aircraft, Cryogenic Fuel Management, and ThermalManagement


This SBIR subtopic is open to any ideasthat lead to aircraft with zero emissions or highly reduced emissions.We are open to ideas that utilize sustainable aviation fuels, Jet-A,aviation gas, or batteries with greatly improved emissions as they mayhave a more near-term market and path to introduction. We are also opento ideas using fuels like liquid natural gas, hydrogen, or other greenfuel ideas that may require more significant infrastructurechanges.


Proposals thatemphasize physical prototypes in Phase I or would be planned for PhaseII are especially desirable. 

We are focused onsome specific areas this year:


1. Turbofantechnologies demonstrated on a small turbofan engine in the 500-lbthrust class. Preferred implementations are those in which a significantfraction (>65%) of the power generated is produced aselectrical power and the remainder as thrust, with at least 150kW of power production and 150 lb of thrust. Emphasis is on producing afull prototype turbine that is light and efficient enough to have a netbenefit on aircraft fuel burn and emissions. Suggested technologiesare:

  • Combined cycles (topping, bottoming, other),as well as novel cycles.
  • Integration concepts of combustor and turbine for improved overalland component performance.
  • Turbines that utilize highly advanced combustors like rotatingdetonation combustions (RDCs) oralternative fuels that are not already widely considered. RDCsthat have the ability to be short, pressure gain devices and to burnH2 with low NO will be considered,
  • Solid oxide/turbine fuel cell combinations.
  • Heat exchangers with waste heat recovery performance that resultsin aircraft-level benefits.

2. Technologies to make cryogenic fuels practical on anaircraft such as, but not limited to, liquid hydrogen and liquid naturalgas.

  • Tank technologies that address weight, boiloff, aircraft loads,safety requirements, and transport and refueling requirements atairports.
  • Cryogenic pump technologies that address the requirements forcryogenic fuel distribution on aircraft and loading/unloading ofcryogenic fuels into tanks.
  • On-ground airport cryogenic managementtechnologies.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 2 to 4

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

  • Level 1 01Propulsion Systems
  • Level 2 01.3AeroPropulsion

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware
  • Software

DesiredDeliverables Description:

Phase I work should include: (1) detailson how the specific technology and configuration of the technology in anaircraft concept leads to a benefit; (2) the plan to introduce thetechnology into a near-term market; (3) clear trade studies andanalytical results to justify a Phase II investment; and (4) ifpossible, prototype hardware component or key parts for high-risk areasor areas of performance risk.


Phase II work should include: (1) finaldesigns and supporting analysis, (2) analysis showing technology benefitto aircraft energy use or emissions, (3) technology to market planand/or plan for Phase IIE or Phase III SBIR support,(4) hardware demonstrations of technology, (5) written test reportsshowing performance of hardware, and (6) comparison of analyticalestimated performance and actual measured performance of technology orcomponents.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

The TRL of power extraction from bothshafts of a turbofan is still low and has not been demonstrated for verysmall turbofans. Most RDEs are not designed in a multidisciplinary andcoupled manner with the turbine, and the combined systems lack range androbustness. Combined-cycle gas turbine/fuel cells are still too heavyfor flight applications and the cost of them must come down. Cryogenictanks and pumps need to be made more reliable, less expensive, andlighter in weight. The thermal management systems must be madeefficient, reliable, and light in weight. Most of these items require asystem approach to optimization and a focus on longer, more ruggedapplications, as well as the ability to keep costsdown.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

Projects that could use this technologyare Transformational Tools and Technologies (TTT), Advanced AirTransport Technology (AATT) Project, and Convergent AeronauticsSolutions (CAS).


Zero-emissions technology is an emergingfocus of the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). Thistopic allows us to engage small business in the activity with apotential path to further funding of ideas developed under this topicthrough the ARMD projects mentioned previously.


Potential advocates include Mark Turner(Senior Technologist, Aeropropulsion), Azlin Biaggi-Labiosa (TTTsubproject manager), Amy Jankovsky (AATT subproject manager), FayetteCollier (Integrated Aviation Systems Program (IASP) Associate Directorfor Flight Strategy), Gaudy Bezos-O'Connor (ElectrifiedPowertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) Project Manager), and RalphJansen.

NASA ARMD Strategic Implementation Plan:

NASA AeronauticsResearch:

NASA Aeronautics SustainableAviation:

Electrified Aircraft Propulsion:

NASA Aims for Climate-FriendlyAviation:

Subsonic Single Aft Engine (SUSAN) Aircraft:

Subsonic Single Aft Engine (SUSAN) Transport Aircraft Concept andTrade Space Exploration:

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