Development of a Proof-of-Concept Laser Pyrolysis Assembly (LPA)
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Recovery of oxygen from metabolic carbon dioxide on-board a spacecraft is currently based on the Sabatier reaction. At present, methane, which is a Sabatier effluent, is vented as waste. Processing this effluent, however, has the potential to allow for valuable hydrogen to be recycled back into Sabatier. Closed-loop recycling of life support consumables will become increasingly important as manned missions explore further from the Earth. Presented here is a novel method for processing Sabatier effluent, developed at Dynetics under a seedling task in conjunction with a Phase 2 Miniaturized Scrubber System technology development effort. A proof-of-concept system for the recovery of hydrogen from methane was demonstrated. The process utilizes a laser to thermally decompose methane into solid carbon and gaseous hydrogen. These and other gaseous byproducts were identified and quantified using gas chromatography. System performance metrics, in terms of reaction rate, carbon selectivity, and energy efficiency are presented. Dependence of these performance metrics on various operating parameters was explored, and the significance of main effects as well as processing parameter interactions was computed. The results of this proof-of-concept effort are presented in comparison to other technologies.