Compact, Regenerable Trace Contaminant Control for Advanced Portable Life Support System
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Trace contaminants that are introduced into the ventilation loop of a spacesuit via metabolic processes, off-gassing of spacesuit materials, and by-products of the amine used in the Rapid Cycle Amine (RCA) system can be removed using activated charcoal. Although effective, the drawbacks of using activated charcoal are a bulky system with low regeneration capability, a reliance on consumables, significant power consumption, and consequently high associated life cycle operating cost. The charcoal bed cannot be regenerated solely by vacuum, and thus has to be regenerated on-base since it requires heat treatment along with a sweep gas or vacuum to remove the desorbed contaminants. Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI) has developed and demonstrated a new sorbent material for the TCCS in advanced spacesuit applications based upon PCI’s novel nanomaterials, enabling a compact, low pressure drop, and regenerable TCC device for efficient removal of NH3 and CH2O. A combination of novel sorbents, tailored for specific contaminants of interest, and structured support substrates permit practical implementation of the sorbent for a vacuum-regenerable (without heating requirement) TCCS with high bed utilization and high removal efficiency, while also minimizing the competitive sorption with moisture and CO2. The resulting TCCS bed, with enhanced mass transfer and regenerable capability, offers the potential for real-time, on-the-suit sorbent regeneration, reduced logistical burden associated with bed replacement or thermal regeneration, and offers significant volume and weight reductions of the TCCS module. In the past year, PCI has been improving the performance of the sorbent materials for the removal of NH3 and CH2O and developing operational windows for the improved TCCS prototype. In this paper, the performance metrics and operational requirements of the improved TCCS beds consisting of the new sorbents will be presented. These include results from performance testing of the prototype at PLSS operating conditions, including capacity, regenerability, and multi-cycle testing.