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Troy, NY, United States

Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.82K | Year: 2010

This SBIR project addresses the need for a system that will provide automated lunar surface stabilization via hybrid microwave heating. Surface stabilization is paramount to future lunar missions due to severe complications from dust on the Apollo space missions. This project focuses on development of a microwave surface solidification device, which could be incorporated into a roving system, to provide adequate working planes for robotic and manned operations. Phase I will demonstrate microwave system feasibility using advanced computer modeling and sophisticated laboratory experimentation with lunar simulant. Research will target surface heating of deep powder beds to best simulate in-situ use. Microwaves coupled with radiant heat sources will maximize heating efficiency. Hybrid microwave heating models will provide process optimization, direct correlations to lunar regolith heating, and a foundation for advanced automated control systems. Ceralink has assembled a team including research partner Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and commercialization partner Gerling Applied Engineering to successful bring this technology from a TRL 2 to a TRL 4 in Phase I. The team is well positioned to achieve TRL 6 with prototype demonstrations by the completion of Phase II, and ultimately deliver a fully functioning system.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses the need for lower cost ceramic materials, specifically for reaction-bonded silicon carbide (RBSC) products. RBSC is used in a multitude of applications ranging from kiln furniture to body armor inserts to ultra-high purity semiconductor components. Lowering costs would make ceramic materials available for more wide-spread use. Currently, these products are limited in applications due to the high costs associated with expensive raw materials and high-temperature processing requirements. This project addresses these issues though the use of low cost preform materials and an innovative thermal processing technique. In prior work, a new method for producing RBSC was developed, through liquid infiltration of molten silicon by direct microwave heating. This innovative process allows for complete infiltration of porous preforms using microwaves, without the need for a high vacuum environment. However, one of the persistent technical issues is the formation of undesirable silicon veins in the RBSC. This may be caused by in part by a significant exothermic reaction during the infiltration. The veins can detrimentally affect the physical properties of the final RBSC. The anticipated technical results of this work are to identify the origin of silicon vein formation, and to develop methods to mitigate this issue.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to lower the cost of RBSC ceramics, making them more economically viable in current applications, and increasing their use in previously unfeasible applications where RBSC could provide superior performance characteristics. The successful development of low-cost, higher strength, and higher purity RSBC would provide significant benefits to ceramic component manufacturers and end users. Some of the current applications for RBSC include kiln furniture and various burner parts for combustion. Areas targeted for expanded use are: wear resistant components (e.g., slip ring seals), body armor for soldiers, sand blasting nozzles, and diffusion components for the semiconductor industry. The semiconductor industry is of particular interest. As devices continue to get smaller, the purity of diffusion components is becoming a critical issue. The use of this RBSC for high-purity wafer carriers would be advantageous, as preforms in the green state can be heated and purified. Finally, this work will enhance scientific and technological understanding of high temperature exothermic reactions, explore methods to control exothermic rates of reaction, and quantify the energy benefit of microwave processing versus conventional methods.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 663.82K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project addresses the need for breakthrough technologies in the production of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics, including nanograin structures, with improved performance-to-cost ratio. UHT ceramics are often challenging to densify. The development of UHT microwave assist technology (MAT) furnaces will dramatically improve the commercial applicability of UHT ceramic products through lower temperature densification and faster heating cycles. MAT, the combination of microwaves with radiant heat, is proven to enhance diffusion, leading to finer grained microstructures. This project will extend the use of MAT to temperatures above 1700 deg. C, into the range of sintering temperatures for UHT ceramics. A prototype UHT MAT furnace will be designed and built, capitalizing upon in-house MAT system design expertise and research results from Phase I. Proprietary MAT-modeling software will assist with optimizing furnace design and process efficiency. Selected UHT ceramics will be studied to demonstrate sintering with the prototype. Three current industrial UHT ceramic manufacturers, who expressed strong interest in using MAT for sintering products, will collaborate on the project.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes performance enhancements at reduced processing costs, and growth in the use of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics. Expanded uptake of UHT ceramics will benefit a wide array of manufactured products in electronics, automotive, and aerospace applications. The process of sintering UHT ceramics is extremely energy-intensive. UHT microwave-assist technology (MAT) processing will reduce energy consumption and green house gas emissions by 50-80% for UHT ceramic production. This process may replace pressure-assisted methods, by combining MAT with techniques such as variable rate sintering. MAT may also decrease the use of sintering aids to improve erosion and wear resistance, and high-temperature strength. This faster process enables just-in-time manufacture and enhances competition with respect to foreign competitors. Finally, the UHT MAT furnace technology will lead to new and value-added products, through property improvements from finer grain sizes and cost reduction. This will position American manufacturers for new revenue opportunities and job growth.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses the need for lower cost ceramic materials, specifically for reaction-bonded silicon carbide (RBSC) products. RBSC is used in a multitude of applications ranging from kiln furniture to body armor inserts to ultra-high purity semiconductor components. Lowering costs would make ceramic materials available for more wide-spread use. Currently, these products are limited in applications due to the high costs associated with expensive raw materials and high-temperature processing requirements. This project addresses these issues though the use of low cost preform materials and an innovative thermal processing technique. In prior work, a new method for producing RBSC was developed, through liquid infiltration of molten silicon by direct microwave heating. This innovative process allows for complete infiltration of porous preforms using microwaves, without the need for a high vacuum environment. However, one of the persistent technical issues is the formation of undesirable silicon veins in the RBSC. This may be caused by in part by a significant exothermic reaction during the infiltration. The veins can detrimentally affect the physical properties of the final RBSC. The anticipated technical results of this work are to identify the origin of silicon vein formation, and to develop methods to mitigate this issue. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to lower the cost of RBSC ceramics, making them more economically viable in current applications, and increasing their use in previously unfeasible applications where RBSC could provide superior performance characteristics. The successful development of low-cost, higher strength, and higher purity RSBC would provide significant benefits to ceramic component manufacturers and end users. Some of the current applications for RBSC include kiln furniture and various burner parts for combustion. Areas targeted for expanded use are: wear resistant components (e.g., slip ring seals), body armor for soldiers, sand blasting nozzles, and diffusion components for the semiconductor industry. The semiconductor industry is of particular interest. As devices continue to get smaller, the purity of diffusion components is becoming a critical issue. The use of this RBSC for high-purity wafer carriers would be advantageous, as preforms in the green state can be heated and purified. Finally, this work will enhance scientific and technological understanding of high temperature exothermic reactions, explore methods to control exothermic rates of reaction, and quantify the energy benefit of microwave processing versus conventional methods.


Allan S.M.,Ceralink, Inc. | Merritt B.J.,Alfred University | Griffin B.F.,Embry - Riddle Aeronautical University | Hintze P.E.,NASA | Shulman H.S.,Ceralink, Inc.
Journal of Aerospace Engineering | Year: 2013

Successful development of extraterrestrial microwave heating technologies depends on the study of the dielectric properties that control the microwave heating behavior of simulants and regoliths. Microwave heating may serve many lunar applications including heating the regolith for lunar surface dust stabilization, oxygen production, building materials, and mineral refinement. The dielectric properties (dielectric constant, ε′, and loss factor, ε″) of the lunar simulant, JSC-1AC, were measured at 2.45 GHz microwave frequency from room temperature to 1,100 C. The dielectric loss tangent and half-power depth were calculated from the measured properties. The loss tangent increased from a low value of 0.02 at room temperature to a high value of 0.31 at 1,100 C, indicating increased efficiency of microwave absorption at higher temperatures. The low temperature loss tangent indicated that relatively slow, low efficiency heating would be expected at room temperature. The microwave heating experiments confirmed weak heating related to absorption below 250 C, and increasingly strong absorption above 250 C, leading to rapid heating and melting or the so-called thermal runaway of JSC-1AC. Heating with microwaves as the only energy source produced a thermal runaway with wide variations in the JSC-1AC, such as fully molten glass, with unsintered loose particulate located millimeters away. The addition of a supplemental radiant heat source to the microwave mitigated the thermal runaway effect and produced uniform solid materials from the JSC-1A lunar simulant. The room temperature dielectric properties of JSC-1AC were measured and found to be comparable with the range of published lunar regolith properties, making JSC-1AC a reasonable starting point for microwave heating and computational modeling studies. © 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers. Source

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