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Huntsville, AL, United States

Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: High temperature wind tunnels are needed to replicate the environment vehicles will experience during high Mach Number flight. Of particular interest are sustained airflow temperatures of 2800aF. To obtain this temperature, improved heating elements and systems are needed. During Phase I, an oxidation resistant, high temperature iridium-based wind tunnel heating element has been developed. Resistive heating experiments showed element surface temperatures greater than 1650aC (3000aF) can be obtained with the current architecture. During Phase II, the process parameters and techniques developed in the Phase I effort will be optimized. For the Phase II investigation, Plasma Processes will partner with the University of Alabama at Huntsville to aid in the design and analysis of a complete heating element system and Southern Research Institute to characterize the heating element properties. The modular system will then be delivered to the Air Force for testing with high mass flow rates at Arnold Engineering Development Center. BENEFIT: The development of an oxidation resistant heating element and heating element system will enable testing of engines and critical hypersonic components such as leading edges and nose tips at high Mach Number (5+). This capability will support numerous military applications with in the Department of Defense and other government agencies such as NASA. In addition, this technology is needed for commercial entities in the following sectors: oxidation resistant coatings, defense, material R&D, nuclear power, aerospace, propulsion, automotive, electronics, crystal growth, and medical. Targeted commercial applications include net-shape fabrication of refractory and platinum group metals for rocket nozzles, crucibles, heat pipes, and propulsion subcomponents; and advanced coating systems for x-ray targets, sputtering targets, turbines, rocket engines, and furnace and heater components.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2015

Liquid oxygen and methane propellants for in space chemical propulsion of future space exploration vehicles is desired for increased performance and elimination of toxicity of conventional hypergolic storable propellants. LOX/LCH4 propulsion systems may reduce space vehicle design complexity and inert mass by utilizing commodities common with other vehicle systems (e.g., oxygen for life-support systems, methane for solid-oxide fuel cell power). Methane can be produced through the Sabatier process from CO2 and water recovered from spacecraft life support systems and, or in-situ resource utilization technologies. SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other companies are developing methane/oxygen engines for launch vehicles. All types of liquid oxygen/liquid methane engines need to be provided with safe and reliable ignition systems. The majority of current ignition systems use heavy spark torch igniters. Spark torch igniter systems require high voltage electronics to generate the spark which may interfere with other spacecraft electronics. Catalytic ignition significantly reduces energy requirements in comparison with other methods. Plasma Processes proposes an investigation of thermo-catalytic ignition of cryogenic methane-oxygen and the development of an ignition system using innovative nanocrystal catalysts on high temperature metal foams. This catalyst was successfully used for ignition of advanced non-toxic AF-M315E monopropellant in a 100lbf class engine.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2015

In fusion plasmas, ion cyclotron range of frequency (ICRF) and lower hybrid range of frequency (LHRF) power is anticipated to be a primary auxiliary heating and current drive sources in next step tokamak experiments like ITER. From a technological perspective, several challenges remain including electrical breakdown and material compatibility with a nuclear environment. Copper has been the primary material used in present experiments due to its high thermal and electrical conductivity. In a nuclear reactor, copper will be restricted to thin coatings due to material swelling from neutron bombardment and poor mechanical strength at high temperature expected in fusion reactors. Recent experimental results suggest that high magnetic field or pulsed surface heating limits the attainable electric fields. Copper alloys with higher tolerance to surface fatigue have indeed shown improvements. The natural extension is to develop high strength and high melting temperature refractory metal coatings that are more tolerant to surface fatigue and compatible with nuclear environment. Recent testing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has shown considerable promise for refractory metal coatings. However, improvements in density and conductivity are needed. During Phase I, innovative electrochemical forming (EL-Form) techniques have been developed that enable the deposition of dense, high purity, well-adhered refractory metal coatings on Inconel substrates. Phase I testing has shown the EL-Form coatings are superior to the previous generation of ICRF refractory metal coatings. During Phase II, the refractory metal coating techniques will be optimized and scaled for coating large antenna straps. The optimized techniques will then be used to produce ICRF antennas that will be tested at MITs Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC). The development of dense, well-bonded refractory metal coatings on Inconel substrates will enable the fabrication of ICRF antennas with improved breakdown resistance and performance. In addition, the same techniques used to produce these deposits on Inconel substrates can be used for other applications including aerospace, defense, propulsion, power generation, electrical contact and switch gear, semiconductor, crucibles, heat shields, x-ray targets, wear and corrosion protection coatings.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2015

Currently, advanced ceramic composites are state-of-the-art for hypersonic airbreathing and space propulsion applications. The Launch Abort System (LAS) of the Orion Multi-Crew Exploration Vehicle (MCEV) will provide a safe escape for the crew in the event of an emergency during launch. A key component of the LAS is its Attitude Control Motor (ACM) containing numerous advanced ceramic composite subcomponents. To fully utilize the high specific strengths and temperature capabilities of these composites, reliable high-temperature joining techniques are needed for attachment to metallic structures. Typical joining technologies such as epoxy, brazing and soldering are not useful in high-temperature applications. Currently, pintles and hot structures are mechanically fastened through highly stressed joints to metallic rods and actuators. Mechanical fastening is not an ideal solution since it causes stress concentrations and destruction of continuous fibers by through holes and threads reducing the mechanical properties of the composite structure. A solution that will resolve joining of numerous composites to metallic components is being pursued. During Phase I, techniques to join metallic structures to advanced ceramic composites will be investigated resulting in structural qualification testing for the ACM pintle assembly. During Phase II, ACM hot gas components will be fabricated and hot fire tested.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2015

Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) has been identified as a critical technology needed for human missions to Mars due to its increased specific impulse (Isp) as compared to traditional chemical propulsion systems. To achieve this high Isp, NTP reactors must operate at extremely high temperatures (i.e., >2400K) for long periods of time. However, many of the best materials for some reactor components (i.e., support rods, control drums, and the reflector) cannot operate at these high temperatures. Therefore, high temperature insulators that are chemically inert, neutronically acceptable, and structurally stable are desired. The Rover and Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA) program identified zirconium carbide (ZrC) as a leading candidate for NTP insulator materials. However, the inherent brittleness and high melting temperature of ZrC make fabrication of complex components such as long, hexagonal tie-tubes extremely difficult. Recently, advanced Vacuum Plasma Spray (VPS) forming techniques have been developed for producing near-net-shape components from Ultra High Temperature Ceramic (UHTC) materials such as tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC). Building on this success, advanced VPS processing techniques will be developed for producing long, hexagonal ZrC based tie-tube support rods for NTP.

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