Catalytic N2O Decomposition for Piloted Scramjet Ignition

Award Information
Department of Defense
Air Force
Award Year:
Phase II
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Reaction Systems, LLC
19039 E. Plaza Dr., Suite 290, Parker, CO, -
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
David Wickham
Principal Investigator
(720) 352-7161
Business Contact:
Todd Leeson
Chief Financial Officer
(303) 881-7992
Research Institution:
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°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.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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