The hydrocarbon leak detection sensor can be used in any application involving hydrocarbons to prevent the risk of ignition due to a leak. Since RP-2 is a storable propellant and will not evaporate, unlike liquid Hydrogen or liquid Oxygen, the risk of RP-2 wicking is always present. Specifically, the hydrocarbon leak detection sensor could be used in the Hydrocarbon Boost (HCB) demonstrator engine currently being developed by FTT and Aerojet. Commercial rocket companies developing LOX/Kerosene engines would also benefit from this technology. Additionally, applications for this sensor could exist in the oil and gas industries.
The hydrocarbon leak detection sensor is applicable to a RP-2/LOX turbopump. The sensor would detect if any RP-2 is wicking into the IPS buffer cavity, either during operation or between missions. This increases the reliability of the IPS, potentially preventing a catastrophic failure. The benefits of the sensor include providing real-time monitoring of the IPS, and recorded video to be watched as a post-test inspection, which decreases the vehicle turn-around-time by eliminating the need for manual inspections of the IPS prior to every flight. The sensor could also detect if the RP-2 has wicked between engine firings and signal that cleaning of the IPS is required before the next engine start. The sensor is at least partially reusable, with the optical viewing device, and may be entirely reusable depending on the type of hydrocarbon indicator material selected as a result of the Phase I testing.