Evaluation of CO2 Adsorber, Sabatier Reactor, and Solid Oxide Stack for Consumable, Propellant, and Power Production – Potential in ISRU Architecture
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The utilization of CO2 and regolith off-gases (e.g., methane and high hydrocarbons) to produce life support consumables, such as O2 and H2O, propellant fuels, and/or power is an important aspect of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) architecture for future, long duration planetary missions. One potential solution is to capture and use CO2 from the Martian atmosphere and/or hydrocarbons from regolith off-gas to generate the consumables, propellant fuels, and power. One approach is to chemically converting the collected carbon dioxide 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 recycled/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. Alternatively, the generated and collected CH4 and O2 can be used as fuel in a solid oxide stack to produce power. Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI), with support from NASA, has developed a regenerable adsorber technology for capturing CO2 from gaseous atmospheres (for both cabin atmosphere revitalization and ISRU applications) and a compact, efficient Sabatier reactor for converting CO2 to methane and water. Recently, we demonstrated a system concept for an innovative, high power density solid oxide stack for the utilization of methane and other hydrocarbons along with O2 to produce power. The resulting enhanced heat transfer and mass transfer design offers the potential for higher overall efficiency, simplifies the system, and enables further compactness and weight reduction of the system while improving the conditions for long system life. Here, the performance metrics and requirements from each technology will be presented. These include results from performance testing at various operating conditions and durability testing.