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NASA Addresses Environmental Stability

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NASA’s current space shuttle has been in use for over 28 years as an orbiter vehicle. The shuttle, which will be retired this year, has provided opportunities to research robotics, science, engineering, human factors, and many areas needed to get back to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Much of this research has led to commercial products that have benefited other industries and agencies. At Kennedy Space Center, the launching pad for the shuttle and research on environmental effects of operations has led to the development of technologies to address environmental stability.

Kennedy Space Center is located in Florida’s Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where environmental stability is crucial to the survival of plants and animals that live in its natural habitat. In the late 1990s, NASA established an environmental stewardship program, partnering with the University of Central Florida (UCF) to perform a pilot-scale study of new technology for cleaning nitrogen oxide pollutants from emissions from industrial boilers. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are a primary criteria pollutant regulated by the EPA.

Under the stewardship program, UCF conducted laboratory-scale testing on hydrogen peroxide injection into high-temperature airstreams containing the nitrogen oxide pollutants, resulting in a 98 percent reduction. The chemical byproducts were then controlled using a liquid scrubber, producing a nitrogen-rich, water-based waste stream. Kennedy Space Center’s Technology Transfer Office evaluated the commercial potential for this technology, finding potential applications in industrial areas, including large utility plants and incinerators. NASA applied for and received a U.S. patent for the technology.

FMC Corporation is one of the world’s foremost diversified chemical companies, with a leading global position in hydrogen peroxide and other specialty oxidants. After reviewing market opportunities for its products, FMC researchers discovered NASA patent U.S. 6,676,912, issued in 2004. FMC saw a potential new application for hydrogen peroxide—to help the U.S. utility industry meet newly proposed NOx regulations—and launched an active development project.

NASA awarded FMC an exclusive patent license for the commercialization of the technology. FMC believes that this technology offers a simple, cost-effective means for utilities and industrial boiler operators to meet more stringent NOx regulations while creating a new market application for hydrogen peroxide in the United States. FMC’s concept is to bundle the new technology with a power plant’s existing pollution control devices to create a low capital multi-pollutant control offering. Once the technology is established at the power plant, the facility will have the opportunity to purchase hydrogen peroxide from FMC to operate the technology.

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