The main attraction of our research to NASA is to ensure the long-term sustainability of programs that rely on helium gas for system purging, leak checking, and as a blanket gas for liquid H2 tanks. The cost of a single recovery unit that is conservatively capable of reclaiming $950,000 of high-purity helium per year is expected to be less than $2.5 million. Depending on the amount of hydrogen that is mixed with the helium, the hydrogen recovered from purge gases (and boiloff) could be of similar value. NASA's future launch systems are built around hydrogen-oxygen rockets, and the need for large quantities of helium will therefore continue for decades. TDA's He-H2 recovery system can be used to capture large and small He-H2 purge and boil-off streams at their source to save money, conserve resources, and improve the environmental sustainability of NASA's operations.
There is a real and far larger commercial opportunity for our technology in the chemical and energy industries. There is worldwide interest in storage and pressurization systems for hydrogen as an efficient and clean energy carrier. Air Liquide and Linde are already exploring hydrogen compression using solid-state compressors. Hence, the primary customers would include these technology developers. TDA's technology can be used to recover and purify hydrogen from streams that are currently vented or flared in the oil refining, chemical, ammonia, methanol, chlor-alkali, metallurgical, glass and electronics industries. The technological readiness level (TRL) will be elevated from 2 to 3 at the end of Phase I. In Phase II we will design, build and test a sub-scale prototype system to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept, thereby elevating the TRL to 4.