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A MEMS-Based Catalytic Microreactor for a H _{\bf 2} O _{\bf 2} Monopropellant Micropropulsion System

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6 Author(s)
Widdis, S.J. ; Hazelett Strip Casting Corp., Burlington, VT, USA ; Asante, K. ; Hitt, D.L. ; Cross, M.W.
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The next generation of miniaturized satellites (`nanosats') feature dramatically reduced thrust and impulse requirements for purposes of spacecraft attitude control and maneuvering. The present study is a joint computational and experimental design effort at developing a new MEMS-based microreactor configuration for incorporation into a monopropellant micropropulsion system. Numerical models of the gas phase catalytic decomposition in microchannel configurations are used to obtain critical sizing requirements for the reactor design. The computational results show that the length scales necessary for complete decomposition are compatible with MEMS-based designs; however, it is also found that the catalytic process is dominated by mass diffusion characteristics within the flow at this scale. Experimentally, a microscale catalytic reactor prototype has been designed and microfabricated using MEMS techniques. The reactor uses self-assembled ruthenium oxide nanorods grown on the wall surfaces as a catalyst. Experimental testing indicates that only partial decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide is achieved. Among the potential sources of the incomplete decomposition, a likely cause appears to be the inability of the H2O2 reactant stream to adequately wet the surface of the catalyst film composed of a high surface density of RuO2 nanorods.

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Mechatronics, IEEE/ASME Transactions on  (Volume:18 ,  Issue: 4 )