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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Advanced Gas Sensing Technology for Space Suits

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Advanced Gas Sensing Technology for Space Suits, Phase I
Advanced space suits require lightweight, low-power, durable sensors for monitoring critical life support materials. No current compact sensors have the tolerance for liquid water that is specifically required for portable life support systems (PLSS). Intelligent Optical Systems (IOS) will develop a luminescence-based optical sensor probe to monitor carbon dioxide, oxygen, and humidity, and selected trace contaminants. Our monitor will incorporate robust CO2, O2, and H2O partial pressure sensors interrogated by a compact, low-power optoelectronic unit. The sensors will not only tolerate liquid water but will actually operate while wet, and can be remotely connected to electronic circuitry by an optical fiber cable immune to electromagnetic interference. For space systems, these miniature sensor elements with remote optoelectronics give unmatched design flexibility for measurements in highly constrained volume systems such as PLSS. Our flow-through monitor design includes an optical sensor we have already developed for PLSS humidity monitoring, and an optical oxygen sensor, both of them based on a common IOS technology. In prior projects IOS has demonstrated a CO2 sensor capable of operating while wet that also met PLSS environmental and analytical requirements, but did not meet life requirements. A new generation of CO2 sensors will be developed to advance this sensor technology and fully meet all NASA requirements, including sensor life. The totally novel approach will overcome the limitations of state-of-the-art luminescent sensors for CO2. Additional sensors will be developed to monitor trace contaminants often found in the ventilation loop as result of material off-gassing or crew member metabolism. IOS has established collaboration with UTC Aerospace Systems to produce prototypes for space qualification, and will conduct extensive testing under simulated space conditions, ensuring a smooth path to technology infusion. More »

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