BOSTON, January 5, 2009 – A two-year long research and development contract has been awarded by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center to Reactive Innovations, LLC of Westford, MA to develop a high-pressure oxygen concentrator. NASA desires to generate and store gases including oxygen and nitrogen at sub-critical conditions as a part of its lunar and spacecraft atmospheric systems. Oxygen at pressures up to 3000 psia is particularly desired for refilling storage tanks for lunar and in-flight applications including recharging high-pressure gas bottles for EVA/EMU, lunar rovers and surface hoppers. To address these needs, Reactive Innovations will develop and deliver a compact high-pressure oxygen concentrator that can take low-pressure atmospheric gas and generate a separate stream of high-pressure pure oxygen. During a previous contract for NASA, Reactive Innovations applied its high-pressure reactor technology to separate and compress oxygen from either ambient pressure air or oxygen streams that had variable levels of humidity ranging from dry to saturated conditions. This information was used by Reactive Innovations to develop a predictive performance model for the oxygen concentrator to aid in a conceptual design of a larger oxygen concentrator for lunar applications and to allow NASA mission planners to conduct trade studies on metrics including the generated oxygen rate per compressor mass and power requirements. For this contract, Reactive Innovations will produce operational prototype electrochemical concentrators that produce 3000 psia oxygen from ambient pressure sources of air or oxygen. These concentrators will be sized to produce 2 kg of oxygen at 3000 psia within a 24 hour time period.
Applications of this technology to NASA include generating oxygen for sub-critical storage on lunar habitats and within spacecraft environments. This technology will enable pressurized oxygen up to 3000 psia to be used for applications where cryogenic storage is not feasible or desired. Furthermore, NASA desires to use re-configurable modules that can function in dual-use or multi-use systems in these habitation environments. With the Reactive Innovations’ modular reactor technology, this process unit can be used for other atmospheric gas processing applications. Non-NASA commercial applications of the proposed technology could find use in portable oxygen generators and concentrators for medical usage. This could be used in hospital and home therapy applications. Other applications of the oxygen compressor include on-site oxygen production for industrial and manufacturing needs, and on-board oxygen generation on aircraft.