Microlith®-based Catalytic Reactor for Air Quality and Trace Contaminant Control Applications



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45th International Conference on Environmental Systems


Traditionally, gaseous compounds such as methane, carbon monoxide, and trace contaminants have posed challenges for maintaining clean air in enclosed spaces such as crewed spacecraft cabins as they are hazardous to humans and are often difficult to remove by conventional adsorption technology. Catalytic oxidizers have provided a reliable and robust means of disposing of even trace levels of these compounds by converting them into carbon dioxide and water. Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI) and NASA – Marshall (MSFC) have been developing, characterizing, and optimizing high temperature catalytic oxidizers (HTCO) based on PCI’s patented Microlith® technology to meet the requirements of future extended human spaceflight explorations. Current efforts have focused on integrating the HTCO unit with a compact, simple recuperative heat exchanger to reduce the overall system size and weight while also reducing its energy requirements. Previous efforts relied on external heat exchangers to recover the waste heat and recycle it to the oxidizer to minimize the system’s power requirements; however, these units contribute weight and volume burdens to the overall system. They also result in excess heat loss due to the separation of the HTCO and the heat recuperator, resulting in lower overall efficiency. Improvements in the recuperative efficiency and close coupling of HTCO and heat recuperator lead to reductions in system energy requirements and startup time. Results from testing HTCO units integrated with heat recuperators at a variety of scales for cabin air quality control and heat melt compactor applications are reported and their benefits over previous iterations of the HTCO and heat recuperator assembly are quantified in this paper.


Bellevue, Washington
Saurabh A. Vilekar, Precision Combustion, Inc., USA
Kyle Hawley, Precision Combustion, Inc., USA
Christian Junaedi, Precision Combustion, Inc., USA
Bruce Crowder, Precision Combustion, Inc., USA
Julian Prada, Precision Combustion, Inc., USA
Richard Mastanduno, Precision Combustion, Inc., USA
Jay L. Perry, NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, USA
Matthew J. Kayatin, NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, USA
The 45th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Bellevue, Washington, USA on 12 July 2015 through 16 July 2015.