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BLUECUBE Aerospace Inc.
Humans produce over 400 million tons of plastic waste and recycle less than 10% of it each year. BLUECUBE Aerospace proposes inserting plastic-digesting enzymes into highly resilient microscopic animals, tardigrades. Found in the bacteria Ideonella Sakaiensis, PETase and MHETase provide a major carbon and energy source by decomposing polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a common component of single-use plastics. While this process is slow on Earth, microgravity enhances many biological functions. Transfecting Hypsibius dujardini tardigrades with PETase and MHETase may provide a means toward more sustainable PET recycling pathways, as these polyextremophile eukaryotes are highly adaptive to harsh environmental conditions.
Crystal Sonic Inc.
Crystal Sonic Inc. develops innovative semiconductor materials processing technologies that substantially drive down next-generation semiconductor device manufacturing costs. Crystal Sonic’s core technology, Sonic Lift-off, harnesses the power of sound waves to cut semiconductor substrates with no material loss and enables the reuse of substrates. In replacing wasteful legacy approaches and lowering manufacturing costs, Sonic Lift-off will accelerate the adoption of next-generation high-efficiency and high-performance wide-bandgap substrate materials. Such materials permit devices to operate at much higher voltages, frequencies, and temperatures than conventional semiconductor materials. Embracing their widespread use will transform energy, computing, communications, and sensing technologies infrastructure for decades to come.
GrowMars Expanding Loop Process
GrowMars orbital services seeks to answer the question of how to expand the carbon cycle beyond Earth. An extravehicular greenhouse using astronaut’s daily CO2 waste can sustain plant life and other biological growth. This manner of recycling could process 4,253 kg of plastic within a year. Waste CO2 from four astronauts could enable manufacturing of a carbon-negative bioderived torus-shaped plastic greenhouse - roughly half the size of an American football field (157m-circumference) - within one year.
Kyma Technologies Inc.
Low-Cost III-V PVs for Space by D-HVPE
Due to their high-efficiency, III-V solar cells are commonly used in space applications, but they have traditionally been expensive to produce. In 2019, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) competitively selected Kyma (pronounced "keema") Technologies, Inc. to design and build a pilot III-V manufacturing reactor that dramatically reduces III-V epitaxy costs. The pilot reactor will be delivered in summer 2022. This innovation creates an opportunity for NASA and potential commercialization partners to further develop and customize equipment and processes to manufacture lower-cost III-V wafers for a variety of solar and thermophotovoltaic applications.
3D Printing Directly From Recycled Flake
Gigabot, re:3D’s flagship technology, is an industrial 3D printer that can directly print from plastic waste, allowing anyone worldwide to access their own personal 3D factory. The most affordable industrial 3D printer on the market considering cost and scale, it is distinguished by a modular frame and a commitment to owners that all improvements and redesigns will be offered as retrofit kits. Loyal customers thus become accounts, continuously purchasing enhancements and consumables as the technology evolves. The platform can now be modified to 3D print with filament or pellets, expanding the possibility to print anywhere on demand.
Space-stable Si Solar Cells and Panels
Solestial is developing solar photovoltaic technology for spacecraft with high end-of-life efficiency and no scaling bottlenecks. Ultrathin silicon solar blankets developed by Solestial can achieve >80% of the efficiency of III-V solar panels while reducing costs by 90% and allowing quick scale-up to 100 MW/year capacity. Ultrathin silicon blankets will be compatible with advanced deployment systems, can be transferred to a 100 MW/year production within one year and can achieve $10/W manufacturing cost. Despite having a 20% lower efficiency, Solestial’s blankets achieve an overall 90% cost-of-ownership reduction due to savings in manufacturing and launch costs.
Perovskite Solar Cells
Swift Solar’s bases their core technology on single and multi-junction perovskite solar cells. Perovskite-based tandems can break through the 30% efficiency barrier and enable lightweight, flexible, aesthetically pleasing products, with very low production costs at scale. This combination of product features allows Swift’s products to meet the efficiency and durability requirements of space operations at a price point that is competitive with terrestrial solar products. Swift Solar will first launch premium high-performance photovoltaic products for custom applications in consumer wearable products, consumer electronics, aerospace, and electric vehicles. These stepping-stone markets will help the company develop a broad customer base and scale up profitably.
As the entrepreneurial aerospace ecosystem continues to evolve, NASA recognizes that public-private partnerships produce greater impact. SBIR Ignite is a new way for small businesses that have a commercially-viable technology idea to use NASA as a stepping stone in their path towards commercial success. With a greater emphasis on commercialization, SBIR Ignite funds U.S. early-stage, high-risk technology development to help make companies and their technologies more attractive to private sector investors, customers, and partners.
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