Pacoima, CA, United States
Pacoima, CA, United States

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Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: In recent work for the Air Force, Ultramet demonstrated nearly one thousand restarts with repeatable pulse performance and steady-state burn characteristics using AF-M315E monopropellant and a novel ignition system. Based on the results of that project, Ultramet received a Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) award from the Air Force to further develop the technology into a flightweight system, including qualification testing of a 22-N AF-M315E thruster by Moog-ISP to bring the technology to TRL 8. In the proposed project, Ultramet and Moog-ISP will leverage the previous and ongoing Air Force work to develop a 1-N AF-M315E-compatible cubesat monopropellant propulsion system design concept that utilizes an Ultramet chamber/nozzle, and conduct a feasibility study on a cubesat-sized AF-M315E-compatible rim-rolling metallic diaphragm tank. Scaleability of the igniter technology will also be demonstrated at the 1-N level. Phase II will involve fabrication and hot-fire testing of a flight-like cubesat monopropellant propulsion system and bring the technology to TRL 8. Phase II teaming partners will include propulsion system integrator Moog-ISP, satellite integrator Ball Aerospace, and Aerospace Corporation for technical oversight. BENEFIT: The proposed technology will eliminate the catalyst degradation and washout issues plaguing AF-M315E catalysts, make hydrazine systems more robust, and/or simplify ignition/restart of non-hypergolic propellants. Potential applications will be numerous as it will enable use of advanced monopropellants that offer performance beyond that of monopropellant hydrazine and bipropellant NTO/MMH. The ignition system can be used in attitude control and apogee engines for commercial and government satellites and divert and attitude control system engines for kinetic kill vehicles. The use of toxic propellants such as hydrazine will be eliminated in gas generators on military aircraft and fuel pressurization systems for tactical missiles. Because such a fast ramp rate and high ultimate temperature can be achieved, it may also be applicable to use in divert and attitude control systems for kinetic kill vehicles and other missile defense systems. Potential military, civil, and commercial space applications for the foam igniter system are orbit transfer, maneuvering, station keeping, and attitude control for satellites. Any agency with satellites employing hydrazine propulsion will benefit.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2015

The potential economic, environmental, and strategic benefits associated with the development of fusion energy are numerous. However, application of fusion technology cannot be realized until advanced materials are developed that allow operation under the high heat flux conditions necessary for cost-competitive electric energy generation. Bathing the wall of a fusion reactor plasma-facing component in a liquid metal such as lithium, gallium, or tin is a viable approach for accommodating continuous heat flux levels exceeding 10 MW/m2, and it is also the preferred approach for removing hydrogen isotopes. Stabilizing the liquid film is the key challenge, which will be addressed through the use of a microtextured surface. In previous work, Ultramet developed high temperature microtextured tungsten and rhenium coatings consisting of thousands of high aspect ratio pyramids per square millimeter that are compatible with lithium, gallium, and tin, and whose effectiveness in wicking molten lithium has been demonstrated even in the presence of strong body forces. Because of the safety issues surrounding lithium, this project will focus on adapting and optimizing this wicking technology for use with gallium and tin. The coatings will be deposited by chemical vapor deposition CVD), and the height, population density, and morphology of the pyramids will be varied to optimize the wetting properties, which will be measured and quantified by exposing the coatings to molten gallium or tin. Heat transfer and fluid flow characteristics will be modeled. If necessary, micron-thick films of other materials can be applied to the textured surface to improve wetting. The effects of dendrite morphology on the fluid flow and wetting behavior of liquid gallium and liquid tin will be characterized, the effects of surface tension and dendrite morphology on the ability of the coating to prevent dryout due to MHD effects will be modeled, and the heat and mass transfer characteristics of a dendrite-enhanced, liquid metal-coated plasma-facing component will be characterized. Nuclear fusion offers a replacement for increasingly scarce fossil fuel energy sources. Alternatives to fossil fuels e.g. wind, solar, geothermal) cannot generate sufficient energy to meet current needs. Fusion, with its low generation of radioactive waste, is ideal for large-scale energy production. Practical application is absolutely dependent on the development of advanced materials as well as innovative designs.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 999.99K | Year: 2015

Dry cooling systems are currently the only option for industrial and utility power plants that are unable to obtain permits for cooling water or where cooling water is unavailable. Available dry cooling systems are more expensive and less efficient than wet cooling systems, so significant improvements in efficiency are needed to make them economically viable. Ultramet is designing, fabricating, and testing heat exchangers based on high thermal conductivity, high-permeability open-cell foams. The high surface area of the foams, combined with their high conductivity and low pressure drop, enables them to achieve high efficiency while simultaneously reducing the size of the heat exchanger. In Phase I, subscale graphite foam heat exchangers were designed, fabricated, and tested. The results demonstrated that the foam increased heat transfer by a factor of four compared with the no-foam case. A correlation was developed between the Nusselt number and the Reynolds number. In Phase II, Ultramet will work with Advanced Thermal and Environmental Concepts (ATEC), an affiliate company of the University of Maryland, to scale up the technology so that it can be implemented in a power plant. This will involve more detailed thermohydraulic modeling and the fabrication and testing of larger-scale heat exchanger modules. A full-scale system would comprise a series of these modules. Commercial applications and other benefits: Large-scale commercial applications include industrial and utility power plants. Smaller applications include heat exchangers used by the military in desert environments (e.g. air conditioners, environmental control units, heat exchangers for radars, etc).


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2015

Solid breeder materials that have been considered in the past are all lithium-based ceramics, including lithium oxide, silicate, titanate, and zirconate, in pebble-bed configurations to enhance tritium release and recovery. However, the current pebble-bed configuration imposes severe design and operational limitations as a result of poor thermal conductivity and high Hertzian stress between pebbles at the contact points, which leads to pebble deformation, cracking, fragmentation, and sintering. These failures, along with low pebble packing fraction <65% dense), limit the operating temperature range and increase the need for neutron multipliers. Purge gas blockage due to these failure modes reduces temperature control and safety. In recent work for DOE, Ultramet and Digital Materials Solutions DMS) developed an advanced lithium zirconate Li2ZrO3) solid breeder material in the form of a cellular ceramic. Lithium zirconate is melt infiltrated into highly porous open-cell carbon foam, after which the carbon foam is removed by oxidation. The process leaves a nominally 90% dense breeder material with an internal network of interconnected microchannels for enhanced tritium release. Thermal conductivity is increased relative to pebble beds, high temperature sintering is eliminated, and durability is increased. In this project, Ultramet proposes to modify the established cellular lithium zirconate processing temperature, pressure, time, precursor purification) toward fabrication of cellular lithium titanate Li2TiO3) breeder material to take advantage of the increased lithium content and reduced radioactivity for easier waste disposal benefits offered by lithium titanate. Nuclear fusion offers a replacement for increasingly scarce fossil fuel energy sources. Alternatives to fossil fuels e.g. wind, solar, geothermal) cannot generate sufficient energy to meet current needs. Fusion, with its low generation of radioactive waste, is ideal for large-scale energy generation. Development of advanced solid breeder materials is necessary to enable the U.S. industrial base to participate in near-term commercial applications of fusion energy e.g. ITER test blankets, DEMO, and beyond).


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2016

Innovative process development is needed to reliably deposit high-quality superconducting niobium films possessing near-bulk niobium performance capabilities on the interior surface of less costly copper accelerator component structures such as cavities, complex couplers, and nosecones as an alternative to solid bulk niobium. Fabrication technologies for cost-effective high-Q, high-field, superconducting radio frequency (SRF) cavities are needed for the economic viability of future accelerator facilities. Extensive research is being conducted by the worldwide particle accelerator community to develop effective alternatives to bulk niobium, including the application of superconducting films on alternative lower-cost material cavity structures, such as copper and aluminum, possessing acceptable performance characteristics. Statement of how this problem or situation is being addressed: Ultramet, in collaboration with Cornell University’s SRF Group, continues to mature innovative SRF cavity/component fabrication techniques combining chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process technology and mandreling procedures that minimize many costly, time-consuming, and often performance-limiting fabrication steps currently used. What is to be done in Phase I? Enabling low temperature CVD film process technology will be developed to form niobium layers of moderate thickness on structural copper possessing material and performance properties comparable to bulk niobium materials. Process variables critical for material optimization, future process scaling, and accelerator cavity and component fabrication efforts will be identified. Commercial applications and other benefits: Ultramet’s CVD-based niobium SRF cavity and component fabrication processes are uniquely well-suited for the near-net-shape fabrication and coating of complex niobium accelerator component geometries that are difficult or impossible to form by conventional deep drawing, hydroforming, and spin-forming methods. The proposed research is a necessary step toward the commercial and scientific application of advanced accelerator component-forming technologies that will represent a significant technical milestone in developing reliable fabrication techniques for reproducible high-performance niobium-coated copper accelerator components offering substantial cost reductions for SRF programs worldwide. Key words: superconducting radio frequency (SRF) cavity, niobium, copper, chemical vapor deposition, high-energy physics, nuclear physics, accelerator


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 999.99K | Year: 2014

Designs for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) employ several plasma-facing materials selected for their suitability to regions of the vessel with different power and flux characteristics. Tungsten is one of the most important candidates for diverter component materials, given its low erosion and good mechanical properties at high temperature. However, high-toughness tungsten alloys that are suitable for fusion plasma environments still must be developed to overcome the inherently brittle nature of tungsten. Solid solution alloys of tungsten-iron with relatively high toughness and ductility, produced using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) processing, are being d eveloped. The process allows the direct deposition of solid solution alloys to produce complex net-shaped plasma-facing com ponents of the desired tungsten alloys, without the high impurity levels, porosity, complexity, and cost associated with alternative processing such as melting, sintering of powders, or homogenization heat treatments. CVD processing was successfully developed for a fully dense, uniform tungsten-iron (W -Fe) alloy that demonstrated increased ductility compared with pure tungsten. Alloys containing 2.5, 3.5, and 4.1 at% iron were produced. Nanoindentation testing showed the Young & apos;s modulus and hardness of the CVD W -Fe alloys were less than those values for CVD tungsten, and the W -Fe alloys survived multiple heating cycles to 1200C at a heating rate of 20C/sec. Dislocation motion in tungsten and W -Fe alloys was modeled u sing three complementary approaches: molecular dynamics, quantum m echanics, and kink pair nucleation and motion coupled with the phonon drag kinetic theory of gases. The CVD tungsten-iron solid solution alloys will be optimized, and detailed modeling and material characterization will be p erform ed. Specimens will be exposed to simulated plasma transients to characterize performance. High temperature thermomechanical properties (tensile and compressive strength vs. strain between ambient and 1200C) will be measured. Thermomechanical damage will be modeled using thermo-elasto- plasticity finite element modeling. Dislocation dynamics modeling of the plastic deformation of W -Fe alloys, and modeling of dislocation nucleation, emission, and motion from crack tips in tungsten and W -Fe alloys, will be performed to determine the influence of iron on the ductile-to-brittle transition temperature. Commercial applications and other benefits: Nuclear fusion is an ideal alternative to increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuels and can provide a much greater quantity of environmentally sound energy than wind, solar, and geothermal sources. Practical application of fusion for efficient electricity generation requires the development of materials and structures that can withstand the demanding reactor environment. The proposed tungsten alloys are key materials for reactors that will ultimately be scaled up for commercial use.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

Efficient nuclear-thermal propulsion (NTP) requires heating a low molecular weight gas, typically hydrogen, to high temperature and expelling it through a nozzle. The higher the temperature and pressure, the higher the thrust and specific impulse. For ground test facilities that will be heating the gas to temperatures up to 4400F (2425C), the number of materials that can be used is severely limited. The need for compatibility with hot hydrogen limits the field even further. In Phase I, Ultramet designed, fabricated, and tested a system for heating high-pressure hydrogen to temperatures approaching 2400C. The system included a foam-based heating element, an insulation package, and a carefully designed multiwalled pressure vessel that could contain the hot gas at pressures up to 2000 psig. The Phase I effort demonstrated the suitability of the selected materials and the overall design approach. Phase II will focus on scaling up the system, fabricating and testing hardware, and laying out a clear path to a system that can deliver hot hydrogen at flow rates up to 40 lbm/sec (the highest flow rate currently of interest to NASA) at pressures up to 2000 psig. The overall system will be composed of multiple modules, and each module will be comprised of multiple heating elements. Because the design is modular, flows higher than 40 lbm/sec can be achieved. The modular design also minimizes programmatic risk because it will allow the use of materials at higher technology readiness levels and subsystems that do not have to be scaled up.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

In this work, Ultramet is developing a three-dimensional (3D) laser-directed chemical vapor deposition (CVD) additive manufacturing system to build free-form refractory metal components for liquid rocket propulsion systems. By combining Ultramet's experience in refractory metal fabrication by CVD with computer control of directed laser energy, nearly unlimited expression of part shape and metal composition can be realized for component fabrication. 3D additive manufacturing is revolutionizing many industries by offering unconstrained complex build geometries and reduced cost, lead time, and material usage compared with conventional manufacturing techniques. By developing laser-directed CVD technology for refractory metals, Ultramet will bring these inherent benefits to a class of materials that are notoriously difficult to form and thus are expensive to implement. By depositing successive layers of metal directly from reactive precursor gases, the system will be able to build components from rhenium, tungsten, tantalum, niobium, and their alloys with complex internal features and reduced assembly part count. In Phase I, Ultramet designed and built a laser-directed CVD reactor, successfully deposited both rhenium and tungsten in a controlled fashion, and achieved well-defined two-dimensional spatial control and layering as a strong demonstration of process feasibility. In Phase II, Ultramet will design and build a new high-power, high-speed reactor with optical z-axis control to enable layering for 3D geometries at high deposition rates. Software and hardware integration will provide automated layering control to enable fully automatic additive manufacturing from 3D models. The deposited rhenium and its layering will be characterized and optimized by direct printing of mechanical test specimens and small demonstrator articles. This phase of the research will mature the system and technology to a level where automated fabrication of small 3D components is possible.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

Ultramet and ARA Ablatives Laboratory previously developed and demonstrated foam-reinforced carbon/phenolic ablators that offer substantially increased high heat flux performance and reduced weight relative to conventional ablators. The structure consisted of an ablator-filled foam front surface backed by Ultramet's highly insulating aerogel-filled foam. Arcjet testing was performed at NASA ARC to heat flux levels exceeding 1000 W/cm2, with the results showing a significantly reduced ablation rate compared to conventional chopped fiber ablators, and ablation behavior comparable to FM5055 at just one-third the density. In 2008, NASA ARC contracted ARA to develop a new heat shield design involving integration of fully cured mid-density ablator blocks within a structural honeycomb reinforcement. The block ablator-in-honeycomb heat shield is envisioned to provide high atmospheric entry reliability due to the structural attachment integrity provided by the honeycomb lattice in the ablative material layer. In Phase I, the Ultramet-ARA team demonstrated the initial feasibility of using ablator/aerogel-filled foam within honeycomb cells through fabrication of a 16-cell panel in which foam blocks were literally pressed to shape using a die and then snug-fit into carbon/phenolic honeycomb cells. The 16-cell panel was infiltrated with ablator to a controlled depth on the front face, which simultaneously bonded the foam blocks to the honeycomb, and the remaining foam void space on the back face was filled with aerogel. In Phase II, block ablator-in-honeycomb structures will be optimized through flat and curved panel fabrication, properties testing, and high heat flux testing at NASA ARC and the Air Force LHMEL facility. This effort will leverage a current Ultramet project for NASA ARC focusing on optimization of ablator-filled foam compositions for use in the 1000-8000 W/cm2 heat flux range, which could ultimately be used in the block ablator-in-honeycomb architecture.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1000.00K | Year: 2016

Solid breeder materials that have been considered in the past are all lithium based ceramics, including lithium oxide, silicate, titanate, and zirconate, in pebble bed configurations to enhance tritium release and recovery. However, the current pebble bed configuration imposes severe design and operational limitations as a result of poor thermal conductivity and high Hertzian stress between pebbles at the contact points, which leads to pebble deformation, cracking, fragmentation, and sintering. These failures, along with low pebble packing fraction (

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