Lift Gas Cracker

Period of Performance: 01/01/2003 - 12/31/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Pioneer Astronautics
11111 W. 8th Ave., Unit A Array
Lakewood, CO 80215
Principal Investigator


The Lift Gas Cracker (LGC) is new method for producing lift gas for balloons for both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial applications, eliminating the need for heavy, bulky gas bottles. The LGC produces a lift gas from the cracking of methanol, an easily obtained, easily stored liquid, to make either the hydrogen/carbon monoxide cracking product or a hydrogen-enriched product by using membrane separation. Combustion of about 10% of the methanol provides sufficient energy to crack the remainder. The LGC product gas can be converted back into methanol, allowing a balloon to maintain altitude during the daytime without having to vent lift gas. The methanol can then be converted back into lift gas at night to maintain altitude without dropping ballast. Thus, long duration balloon flights could be extended a factor of 20 or more compared to conventional means.