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SBIR/STTR

Extreme Environment SiC Wireless Sensor Suite for Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Engines, Phase II

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

There are a number of critical telemetry measurements to be monitored under continuous field operation, including temperature data across the reactor chamber and the nozzle, pressure data, neutron flux density and flow rate of the propellant. Real-time monitoring of this data in nuclear thermal engines would greatly improve operational safety and performance, reduce operational costs, and significantly impact maintenance costs and reliability. Even though some extreme environment sensors become available recently, it is still impossible to directly and accurately measure the critical operational parameters of NTP engines due to the lack of extreme environment electronics for those sensors. Data from extreme environment sensors is delivered via wire-line to an external actively cooled electronics box, where it is processed. This approach presents significant drawbacks such as the need for complex shielded wiring harnesses that not only are heavy but also limit sensor location and signal quality (i.e., signal to noise ratio). Additionally, these systems suffer from reliability issues due to wiring connections. In this Phase II SBIR, APEI, Inc. will build on the successful demonstration of high temperature wireless transmitter designs during Phase I, to deliver a set of SiC based, integrated wireless sensor-transmitter suites for extreme temperature operation (450 Deg C) in NTP engines. These sensor suites will allow for the real–time monitoring of critical engine components, reducing the risk of catastrophic failure and decreasing the inherent risk associated with NTP operation. The final wireless sensor systems will be fully integrated into an autonomous 'drop-in' solution for advanced sensing systems, including wireless energy harvesting. More »

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