CO2 Reduction Assembly Prototype using Microlith-based Sabatier Reactor for Ground Demonstration
Abney, Morgan B.
Perry, Jay L.
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The utilization of CO2 to produce life support consumables, such as O2 and H2O, via the Sabatier reaction is an important aspect of NASA’s cabin Atmosphere Revitalization System (ARS) and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) architectures for both low-earth orbit and long-term manned space missions. Carbon dioxide can be reacted with H2, obtained from the electrolysis of water, via Sabatier reaction to produce methane and H2O. Methane can be stored and utilized as propellant while H2O can be either stored or electrolyzed to produce oxygen and regain the hydrogen atoms. Depending on the application, O2 can be used to replenish the atmosphere in human-crewed missions or as an oxidant for robotic and return missions. Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI), with support from NASA, has previously developed an efficient and compact Sabatier reactor based on its Microlith® catalytic technology and demonstrated the capability to achieve high CO2 conversion and CH4 selectivity (i.e., ≥90% of the thermodynamic equilibrium values) at high space velocities and low operating temperatures. This was made possible through the use of high-heat-transfer and high-surface-area Microlith catalytic substrates. Using this Sabatier reactor, PCI designed, developed, and demonstrated a stand-alone CO2 Reduction Assembly (CRA) test system for ground demonstration and performance validation. The Sabatier reactor was integrated with the necessary balance-of-plant components and controls system, allowing an automated, single “push–button” start-up and shutdown. Additionally, the versatility of the test system prototype was demonstrated by operating it under H2-rich (H2/CO2 of >4), stoichiometric (ratio of 4), and CO2-rich conditions (ratio of <4) without affecting its performance and meeting the equilibrium-predicted water recovery rates. In this paper, the development of the CRA test system for ground demonstration will be discussed. Additionally, the performance results from testing the system at various operating conditions and the results from durability testing will be presented.