The carbon dioxide removal assembly (CDRA) has been used for the past two decades to continually remove carbon dioxide (CO2) as part of the air revitalization system onboard the international space station (ISS). The CDRA is an adsorption-based system that relies on sorbent materials that require a significant energy input to be thermally regenerated. Additionally, the system faces challenges in reliability and size/weight, so it is being re-evaluated for viability beyond-lowearth-orbit missions. The CDRA removes CO2 from the cabin air through a cyclical adsorption-desorption process that uses four molecular sieve beds. The main components include two desiccant beds to remove H2O, two CO2 zeolite sorbent beds, an air blower, two resistive heaters, and a cooling heat exchanger. Past studies on the CDRA primarily focus on predictive physics-based modeling of the sorbent beds to understand reliability, performance, and sorbent kinetics, with very few performing a thermodynamic analysis of the entire system. This study aims to improve the understanding of component-level losses of the CDRA using exergy destruction analysis and to quantify the losses. We developed a thermodynamics black-box model using a first and second law balances over each individual component over one operational cycle. The results indicate that the molecular sieve sorbent beds are major contributors to lost work within the CDRA. However, the total exergy destruction in the desiccant beds is greater than the sorbent beds. This indicates that the desiccant beds are the largest contributor of losses. Removing water prior to the removal of CO2 from the flow stream is a necessary step because the zeolite sorbent will preferentially adsorb water. Our findings motivate the use of alternative components that may offer direct separation of water at higher efficiencies.


M. T. Thai, D. Issac Aragones, J. Weibel, D. M. Warsinger, A Thermodynamics Analysis for Improvement of Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies for Space, AIAA Region III Student Conference, West Lafayette, IN, March 25 2022

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