April 30, 2014 – Reactive Innovations, LLC was awarded a contract from NASA to develop a carbon dioxide collection and pressurization system to operate in the Martian atmosphere. Mars is the ultimate destination of NASA’s human exploration program where In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is a key technology required to enable such missions. The goals of using resources that are available at the site of exploration and pursuing the philosophy of “living off the land” instead of bringing it all the way from Earth are to achieve a reduction in launch and delivered mass for exploration missions, a reduction in mission risk and cost, to enable new missions not possible without ISRU, and to expand the human presence in space.
Reactive Innovations has developed an electrochemically-driven technology platform which can be customized to fulfill the many individual separation requirements of ISRU technology processing streams. For this present NASA effort, Reactive Innovations will develop a compact and lightweight electrochemical reactor to separate and pressurize carbon dioxide from the Martian Atmosphere. Reactive’s approach builds on recently developed technology in our laboratories and others in selective separation based on electrochemically modulated facilitated transport. This process electrochemically pumps the bound carbon dioxide across a membrane separator effectively concentrating and pressurizing it in a separate process stream.
This technology platform will also have significant terrestrial-based applications. The market for separating carbon dioxide from other gases is expected to grow with continued interest and emphasis on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. A compact electrochemical reactor that efficiently separates and concentrates carbon dioxide can be used in sequestration scenarios, alternative fuel production, as well as mitigating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.