BOSTON, January 20, 2006 – The NASA Kennedy Space Center awarded a contract to Reactive Innovations, LLC (RIL), formerly MicroCell Technologies, to demonstrate the feasibility of an electrochemically modulated phase separator for in situ processing and refining in future space missions. Two-phase (liquid and gas) flow are a vital part of many life support and thermal management systems which will be supported using in situ resources on spacecraft and on future habitations on the moon and Mars. An important part of two phase flow management is phase separation. In an acceleration field such as provided by the earth’s gravity, buoyancy forces govern the spatial distribution of the phases. However, in microgravity conditions, some other means must force the liquid and gas to separate into desired regions of a flow section or containment vessel. RIL’s electrochemically modulated gas/liquid separation system is being designed for maximum reliability, requiring low power and having low or no maintenance for the duration of the mission. This phase separator is focusing first on the separation and concentration of CO2 from a mixed-phase stream in liquid water using an electrochemically modulated ionic liquid membrane.
The use of RIL’s supported ionic liquid membrane technology for this phase separator can also be used for other commercial applications beyond NASA’s requirements for CO2/liquid water separation. These supported ionic liquid membranes can find great utility in electrochemical reactors and separators due to the large operating voltage window. This opens up new avenues for chemical electrosynthesis, gas generation, and power production.