Microchannel Reactors for ISRU Applications Using Nanofabricated Catalysts
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
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1585 Marauder Street, Chico, CA, 95973-9064
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AbstractMakel Engineering, Inc. (MEI) and USRA propose to develop microchannel reactors for In-Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) using nanofabricated catalysts. The proposed technology seeks to develop and demonstrate an exoskeletal support concept using carbon nanotubes (CNT) as catalyst support within microchannel reactors. Affordable planning and execution of prolonged manned space missions depend upon the utilization of local resources and the waste products which are formed in manned spacecraft and surface bases. Successful ISRU will require component technologies which provide optimal size, weight, volume, and power efficiency. The use of advanced CNT supported catalysts within the microchannel reactor structure will enable the efficient chemical processing of in-situ resources. The reactors can be designed for the processes that generate the most benefit for each mission. For instance, propellants (methane) can be produced from carbon dioxide from the Mars atmosphere using the Sabatier reaction and ethylene can be produced from the partial oxidation of methane. Ethylene is a feedstock for systems to synthesize ethanol and polyethylene. Polyethylene can be used in the construction of habitats, tools, and replacement parts. Ethanol can be used as a nutrient for Astrobiology experiments, as well as a precursor for the production of nutrients (e.g. sugars) for human crew.
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