Skip to main content

Smart Separations to develop new technique for converting green monopropellant for small satellite thrusters

NEWS: Smart Separations signs up for new SPRINT project

Will collaborate with University of Surrey on SPRINT-funded project to develop new catalytic monopropellants for satellite propulsion systems

Smart Separations, a leading specialist in innovative microfiltration (MF) technology, has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme. SPRINT will provide Smart Separations with funded access to expertise from programme partner, the University of Surrey, to collaborate on the development of a unique approach to producing monopropellant thrusters for small satellite launches.

A key component of the small satellite propulsion unit is the catalytic bed where the propellant is decomposed, causing a rapid hot gas expansion, producing thrust. The unique microstructure of Smart Separations’ membranes means that they have an unparalleled potential to be used as catalytic beds.

The SPRINT project will investigate the feasibility of using Smart Separations’ membranes in micro-channel catalytic beds as a method to efficiently decompose green monopropellant systems, used to control the orbit of small satellites.

Smart Separations, based at the Surrey Technology Centre, will use a micro-catalytic reactor at the University of Surrey’s Chemical Engineering department. The project will verify that high conversion of monopropellant fuel can be achieved, provided a suitable coating is present.

The project will be funded by a grant from the £4.8 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

Enrique Ruiz-Trejo, Research and Development Manager at Smart Separations said: “We’ve worked for and previously engaged with the Surrey Technology Centre, the University of Surrey and SETsquared, where we first found out about SPRINT. They were interested in hearing from companies with no real background in space and although space was a new area for us, we talked to the University about the nano-satellite market and opportunities there.

“The success of this project will be driven by our engagement with a partner who has expertise in propulsion and satellites, who can bring an engineering approach and demonstrate the proof of concept. The expertise and facilities at the University of Surrey are so important as our catalytic testing needs proper facilities. We also need accurate data and numbers to attract commercial partners so the credibility of data from the University will help us to get people interested in what we’re doing.”

Tomas Ramirez Reina, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Surrey added: ” The satellite market is vital within aerospace technologies but we need more propulsion options so our expertise in satellite propulsion and process engineering is complemented by Smart Separations’ developments in membrane technology. It’s an innovative project and represents a new area for the university as it’s our first experience of catalytic membranes.

“Whilst they have already developed catalytic membranes for other markets in partnership with Smart Separations, space is a new sector and we can use the preliminary data and proof of concept work to establish bigger opportunities in new markets.”

Keep up to date with the latest SPRINT news and events with our monthly newsletter