Sustainable Innovations Wins NASA Phase II SBIR Contract To Purify Scarce Helium Used In Rocket Launch Operations

Sustainable Innovations received a contract from NASA to supply a commercial-scale system to recycle helium, a resource that is in scarce supply. Ongoing rocket test operations at NASA Stennis Space Center (SSC) result in valuable helium gas being vented to the atmosphere, in addition to the substantial quantity of hydrogen gas that is flared upon completion of a rocket test cycle. The price of helium has increased substantially in recent years, along with the interest in finding an efficient and economical method of helium recovery. Sustainable Innovations’ Helium Recovery System (HRS) selectively removes hydrogen from the helium purge gas used in rocket fueling operations, allowing the high-value helium to be recovered for reuse. Recovery of hydrogen from the waste stream is an added benefit that increases savings.The heart of the HRS is a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) platform technology under commercial development by Sustainable Innovations, termed H2RENEW™. H2RENEW is an electrochemical system that separates and compresses hydrogen for industrial applications such as specialty metals and semiconductor processing. In 2014, Sustainable Innovations successfully delivered a prototype unit to SSC to demonstrate the ability to capture, separate and compress helium from a gas mixture derived from rocket test operations. A critical next step in the advancement of the HRS system is the demonstration of technologies that permit high efficiency gas separation at high throughput capacity, thereby proving the scalability of this technology. According to Dr. Trent Molter, President and CEO of Sustainable Innovations, “The goal of the NASA Phase I project was to double the capacity of the individual electrochemical separation cells while maintaining optimal operating efficiency and durability.” The innovations demonstrated in Phase I will be scaled under the current Phase II program and integrated into Sustainable Innovations’ large scale electrochemical module design. This will permit scalability to the capacities that are required to recover the substantial quantities of helium and hydrogen used in the SSC fueling operation, saving not only taxpayer dollars, but a valuable natural resource.

About Sustainable Innovations: Sustainable Innovations is fueled by a vision to create a paradigm shift in the way the world uses energy. Led by its founder, Dr. Trent Molter, SI represents over three decades of innovation in the waste and energy industry. From hydrogen renewal systems to long term energy storage products, SI develops and manufactures innovative products based on a proprietary, low-cost, large format electrochemical platform that transforms waste gases and power into higher value forms.

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