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A Sample of Ten 2020 SBIR Grant Awards

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1 | Department of Energy (DoE) .


Co-Generation of Low-Energy, CO2-Free Hydrogen and Ordinary Portland Cement from Ca-Rich Rocks

Solicitation Year: 2019

Award Amount: $250,000.00


We are building a technology that produces low cost hydrogen while releasing low or no carbon dioxide emissions. Key to our affordable hydrogen is the co-generation of valuable co-products like: Sulfuric Acid or Cement. Our processes are lower emission, lower energy and lower cost than conventional production method. We validated a proof-of-concept in our lab in May 2019 and our objective is to develop a field test prototype by January 2021. In 2020, we will scale to 1 kg of hydrogen per day and continue testing and improving our technology. In 2019, Hydrogen is responsible for 2 – 3 % of global greenhouse gas emission, the cement industry for 6 – 8%, and transportation for 13 -15%. If we succeed on deploying our technology to meet the entire cement market, we could produce enough hydrogen for the entire hydrogen market, plus enough hydrogen to power all the cars in the world. This technology could pioneer a new industry revolution and reduce global greenhouse gas emission by more than 10%.


Chemically Engineered Process for Enhanced Carbon Mineralization Potential

Solicitation Year: 2019

Award Amount: $176,562.00


Globally, carbon capture and storage technologies are being developed to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere. One promising version of these technologies is carbon mineralization. Carbon mineralization reacts CO2 gas with minerals containing magnesium and/or calcium. When CO2 reacts with these minerals, it forms solid carbonate which may be sold for use in building materials. One plausible source of these minerals is waste produced at mining facilities. This project aims to optimize the mineralization process with mine wastes using a two-step process: (1) a high-temperature reaction of mine waste with a reactive salt and (2) aqueous carbonation. Experiments in the laboratory will be followed by demonstration at a larger scale with a specialized reaction vessel, specifically engineered to promote the optimal reaction conditions. An economic and locational analysis of the process will reveal locations where the optimized process can be implemented, based on the location of suitable minerals and CO2 sources. These CO2 sources can include industrial emitters, such as power plants, facilities where CO2 is captured directly from air, or air itself. The work proposed here will enhance the rate of carbon mineralization, as well as provide a process to use minerals that have not been widely tested in scientific literature. This will increase the amount of available minerals used to capture CO2. Finally, the carbonates produced in this process can be used as value-added building materials, such as aggregate for making cement. This can offset some of the carbon footprint associated with the cement industry.


SeaSTAR: Selective Thalassic Ambulatory Retriever (STAR)

Solicitation Year: 2019

Award Amount: $249,308.00


Growth, electrification, and increased installation of renewable energy is driving significant increases in worldwide demand for metals like manganese, nickel, copper, and cobalt. This increase in commodity prices and projected demand has driven interest in exploring new sources of minerals such as deep sea mining. The abyssal plain contains locations of concentrated deposits of polymetallic nodules, 3-20cm diameter metallic secretions which are a yet-untapped resource of relevant minerals. Current prototype polymetallic nodule collectors propose to function as indiscriminate vacuums, strip mining a significant volume of the sea floor and transporting every- thing to the surface to be filtered, with significant ecological costs in addition to the costs of transporting so much waste material to the surface. Otherlab proposes to develop a nodule collector called the SeaSTAR, a large platform attached to a vacuum funnel that’s ringed by robot arms. The platform would use its arms to walk across the abyssal plain while selectively picking up nodules and depositing them into a vacuum for trans- port to the surface. This selectivity will reduce the cost of mining operations by reducing the mass transported to the surface, and significantly reduce the environmental impact by minimizing disruption of the ocean floor.

2 | NASA


Scalable and Distributed Inertial Navigation Systems

Solicitation Year: 2018

Award Amount: $754,979.00


Current state of the art inertial measurement units (IMUs) co-locate a set of accelerometers and gyroscopes into a single package. CU Aerospace (CUA), in partnership with the University of Illinois, propose the continued development of a scalable and distributed IMU (DSIMU) for space robotics and CubeSat applications. The user can deliberately choose a number of inertial sensors beyond the minimal number of sensors required for inertial navigation. This scalability enables both improved measurement resolution and system redundancy. The distributed nature of the system means that sensors can be placed arbitrarily by the user as needed in their design, under the constraint that each axis is measured by at least one accelerometer and gyroscope. This technology enables space-constrained systems to leverage redundant inertial sensors for fault detection and isolation (FDI), jitter on a spacecraft, and angular velocity without the use of gyroscopes. Beyond the systems engineering benefits of this system, distributing the sensors is grounded by previous research that suggests it will reduce the total noise of its output measurements and have important SWaP-C implications for space systems. This technology can potentially be used in most robotic systems currently using an inertial navigation system. However, the best applications of this technology are in space constrained robots that can benefit from accurate state estimates or fault tolerant systems. The primary Phase II technical objectives are to develop a Distributed Inertial Sensor Integration (DISI) Kit including flight-like DSIMU hardware and beta-software for delivery by the end of Phase II.