Aluminum Nanopowder Production for Nano-Satellite Propulsion

Period of Performance: 09/11/2002 - 09/11/2003


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

MicroCoating Technologies (formerly CCVD)
5315 Peachtree Industrial Blvd.
Atlanta, GA 30341
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Research Institution

Georgia Institute of Technology
225 North Ave NW
Atlanta, GA 30332
Institution POC


MicroCoating Technologies, Inc. (MCT), proposes the novel approach of using the Combustion Chemical Vapor Deposition (CCVD) process to create aluminum-based nanopowders for use as a solid fuel for nano-satellite propulsion. The aluminum-based nanopowders will be created through a combination of the CCVD process with an incorporation of a fluidized bed to enable the creation of nano-composite powders with specific functional layers. Through the use of multiple layers, MCT will be able to combine fuel, oxidizer and anti-agglomeration agents within a single multi-layered structure to improve the solid fuel performance. An additional aspect of this research will involve modeling and measurement of the combustion flame used during the CCVD process. This modeling will enable MCT to better design micronozzles based on the NanomiserT device (described in greater detail later). Furthermore, the models will allow MCT to more fully understand the complex micro-combustion dynamics, heat-addition, and sublimation characteristics inherent within the NanomiserT device. This research will identify any scaling issues with the nanopowder production or use and will verify this propellants compatibility with silicon oxides. During Phase II of this research, MCT will develop and test prototype nano-thrusters based on the solid-fuels developed during Phase I. The feasibility of the proposed nano-thrusters will be compared with the micro-combustion models developed during Phase I. MCT will work with Prof. Naresh Thadhani of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the development, testing and characterization of the aluminum-based nanopowders developed under this research program. Maintaining possession of the "high ground" has always been a primary military doctrine over the millennia. Since the onset of the space-race, the quintessential high ground has now become outer space. By placing surveillance or other military assets in orbit around the earth, the United States and it's allies can maintain battlefield superiority against adversaries. Due to high density electronics and other miniaturization technologies (i.e., MEMS), orbiting satellites have been steadily decreasing in size and weight. Unfortunately, propulsion sub-components required to place the asset in orbit and maintain it's stability throughout its design life contribute to a significant fraction of the overall spacecraft mass and pose crucial design constraints. A primary cost factor in space operations is the substantial cost per kilogram required to loft a spacecraft into orbit. For this reason, nano-satellites (defined as weighing less than 1kg) have become of major interest within the Department of Defense (DoD). To minimize mass associated with the propulsion component a solid-fuel is a logical choice. Solid fuels eliminate the need for large pumps and feed systems or external power supplies that would be necessary for liquid-fuel or electrical propulsion systems respectively.