Browse Publications Technical Papers 2003-01-2371

Investigating the Partitioning of Inorganic Elements Consumed by Humans between the Various Fractions of Human Wastes - An Alternative Approach 2003-01-2371

The elemental composition of food consumed by astronauts is well defined. The major elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur are taken up in large amounts and these are often associated with the organic fraction (carbohydrates, proteins, fats etc) of human tissue. On the other hand, a number of the elements are located in the extracellular fluids and can be accounted for in the liquid and solid waste fraction of humans. These elements fall into three major categories - cationic macroelements (e.g. Ca, K, Na, Mg and Si), anionic macroelements (e.g. P, S and Cl and17 essential microelements, (e.g. Fe, Mn, Cr, Co, Cu, Zn, Se and Sr). When provided in the recommended concentrations to an adult healthy human, these elements should not normally accumulate in humans and will eventually be excreted in the different human wastes. Knowledge of the partitioning of these elements between the different human waste fractions is important in understanding (a) developing waste separation technologies, (b) decision-making on how these elements can be recovered for reuse in space habitats, and (c) to developing the processors for waste management. Though considerable literature exists on these elements, there is a lack of understanding and often conflicting data. Two major reasons for these problems include the lack of controlled experimental protocols and the inherently large variations between human subjects (Parker and Gallagher, 1988) We have used the existing knowledge of human nutrition and waste from the available literature and NASA documentation to build towards a consensus to typify and chemically characterize the various human wastes. It is our belief, that this could be a building block towards integrating a human life support and waste processing in a closed system.


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