Funding Research for Better Water Purification

Access to clean, uncontaminated water is of paramount importance to Air Force warfighters conducting critical operations. In many remote or rural areas of the world, access to this resource is limited or nonexistent.

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program office is providing nearly $750,000 to further mature a portable micro-discharge ozone generator, capable of purifying and decontaminating water for warfighters in the Air Force’s Air Combat Command and the Army’s Special Forces Command.

Kristin Galbally-Kinney, Steve Davis, and Terry Rawlins, of Physical Sciences Inc., adjust the excitation source for an argon microplasma laser. (Contributed photo)

Kristin Galbally-Kinney, Steve Davis, and Terry Rawlins, of Physical Sciences Inc., adjust the excitation source for an argon microplasma laser. (Contributed photo)

The generator, developed jointly by Physical Sciences Inc. in Andover, Massachusetts, and Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, is expected to offer maintenance and system voltage improvements over conventional ozone generators.

“Maturation of this technology is expected to result in portable water purification systems for remote air fields, as well as portable biological and chemical agent decontamination devices,” said Dr. Steve Adams, the Air Force Research Laboratory researcher managing the project.

An associated rare-gas microplasma laser effort will scale the power up to demonstrate the potential for meeting weapons-grade power objectives.

“We’ll also apply the technology concepts to an effort that replaces corrosive gas lasers with innovative inert gas lasers. The ability to replace those lasers will greatly reduce laser operational maintenance requirements and the logistics associated with those systems,” Adams said.

In addition to the STTR funding, this program leverages more than $300,000 in funds from the High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office. As the technology matures, the investigators plan to seek additional funds from other Department of Defense agencies for scaling devices to field applications. These funds will help to ensure the Phase II project graduates into a Phase III program that successfully transitions its technologies into military or private sectors.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs are mission-oriented programs that integrate the needs and requirements of the Air Force through research and development topics that have military and commercial potential. The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982 to fund research and development (R&D) through small businesses of 500 or fewer employees.

The STTR program was established in 1992 to fund cooperative R&D projects with small businesses and non-profit U.S. research institutions, such as universities.

Since 2006, the Commercialization Readiness Program has directly linked Air Force centers to Air Force Research Laboratory technical points of contact to identify and evaluate Air Force needs and innovative solutions. Its primary objective is to accelerate the transition of SBIR/STTR-developed technologies into real-world military and commercial applications.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs provide more than $300 million in funding for research and development activities by small businesses annually. With this budget, the Air Force funds research from the early stages of concept development until it transitions to military or commercial use.

By Timothy Anderl, Air Force SBIR/STTR Program Office
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