The proposed thermally stable catalytic combustor technology is a key to providing combustion stability in hydrogen-based gas turbine based propulsion systems operating at very high altitudes. Such propulsion systems are critical to a multitude of missions employing unmanned aerial vehicles. These systems are of significant interest to the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In addition, this technology may have potential to provide emissions reduction in stationary gas turbine systems used for power generation. This is of interest to the U. S. Department of Energy.
NASA has shown recent interest in the use of hydrogen fuel as a means of substantially reducing the carbon emissions from commercial aircraft. A potential problem with a hydrogen-based system is that nitrogen oxides emissions may be difficult to control. The thermally stable catalytic combustor technology that will be developed through this effort may provide an approach to control the NOx emissions from a hydrogen-based aircraft platform. In addition, this technology provides a capability to extend the operating range of hydrogen-based gas turbine based propulsion systems to very high altitudes that may enable new aircraft platforms for earth and atmospheric science initiatives at NASA. Additionally, this catalyst technology could find use in other systems of interest to NASA that operate at high altitudes, such as supersonic/hypersonic vehicles or balloon-based systems, and may require additional thrust, power, or a high heat source.