Spinning Scroll Compressor Funding Awarded to Support NASA Spacesuit Development

SBIR funding through NASA will support the development of a spinning scroll compressor for CO2 and H2O removal in next-generation spacesuits.

Concept Rendering of Spinning Scroll Boost Compressor (SSBC) for NASA Spacesuit Development

Concept Rendering of Spinning Scroll Boost Compressor (SSBC) for NASA Spacesuit Development

Broomfield, CO – To meet the demanding specifications of future space exploration, Air Squared has been awarded Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) funding through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the development of a Spinning Scroll Boost Compressor (SSBC) that can support Exploration Extra Vehicular Mobility units (xEMU) in future Mars missions.

State-of-the-art spacesuits utilize amine swing-bed systems and were initially designed for lunar missions where there is no atmosphere. To handle the partial atmosphere of Mars, next-generation spacesuits will need to use pressure swing adsorption to accommodate the Martian environment. Under the topic Exploration Portable Life Support System (xPLSS) for Deep Space and Surface Missions (H4.01), NASA has solicited pressure swing adsorption components for continuous CO2 and H2O removal that can pull vacuum below to 0.1 torr, can achieve outlet tolerances over 15.2 psia, and are small enough to deploy in a spacesuit.

Applying patented spinning scroll technology to another space-based application, Air Squared will design the SSBC to operate at speeds over 8,000 RPM. The spinning scroll architecture removes the need for a counterbalance and allows for higher operating speeds than orbiting scroll compressors, crucially reducing size and weight. The SSBC merges the strengths of dynamic and positive displacement compressor (blower) technology by capturing the high-pressure differential of positive displacement compressors without sacrificing high-speed performance.

The Phase I effort will focus on accomplishing three primary goals by Q2 2020:

  1. Select a SSBC operating speed that balances size, weight, noise, and vibration
  2. Construct a thermal model to estimate SSBC performance and power consumption
  3. Finalize SSBC design and solid model

Air Squared is proud to once again support NASA exploration to Mars and beyond while further demonstrating the innovative advantages of spinning scroll technology.

SPINNING SCROLL TECHNOLOGY

In principle, the design of the spinning scroll (also referred to as a “co-rotating scroll”) is very similar to that of the traditional orbiting scroll, as the relative motion between the two scrolls is identical. Pressure and flow are generated the same in both approaches, with the relative motion between the scrolls creating a series of crescent-shaped gas pockets that generate pressure, vacuum, or expansion depending on how the device is being operated.

Orbiting Scroll Dynamics vs. Spinning Scroll Dynamics

Orbiting Scroll Dynamics vs. Spinning Scroll Dynamics

The primary difference is that the traditional approach of one scroll remaining stationary while the other scroll orbits eccentrically on a fixed path is replaced with two scrolls that rotate in synchronous motion with offset centers of rotation.

The spinning scroll approach reduces componentry, improves efficiency, and allows for higher running speeds. The true rotary motion of the synchronous scrolls eliminates the need for counterweights, allowing for shorter and lighter drive shafts, which, in turn, reduce power consumption, size, and weight. The simplified balancing and a lighter drive configuration also allow for higher obtainable running speeds by a factor of two. As pressure and flow are directly proportional to speed, the spinning scroll design can offer a similar performance with substantial size and weight reduction.

ABOUT AIRSQUARED

Air Squared is the industry leader in oil-free scroll design and manufacturing. By introducing a simple design with fewer moving parts, scroll technology has established itself as a highly efficient, very reliable, cost-effective alternative. Through a growing line of compressors, vacuum pumps, and expanders, Air Squared makes the many advantages of oil-free scroll technology available to OEMs worldwide.

This material is based upon work supported by a Phase I SBIR award by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the subtopic: Exploration Portable Life Support System (xPLSS) for Deep Space and Surface Missions (H4.01). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

UPDATE (June 11th, 2020) – Following a successful Phase I SBIR effort, Air Squared has been awarded Phase II SBIR funding from NASA and will continue development through 2020.

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