1993-07-01

Engineering Strategies and Implications of Using Higer Plants for Throttling Gas and Water Exchange in a Controlled Ecological Life Support System 932062

Engineering strategies for advanced life support systems to be used on Lunar and Mars bases involve a wide spectrum of approaches. These range from purely physical-chemical life support strategies to purely biological approaches. Within the context of biological based systems, a bioengineered system can be devised that would utilize the metabolic mechanisms of plants to control the rates of CO2 uptake and O2 evolution (phytosynthesis) and water production (transpiration). Such a mechanism of external engineering control has become known as “throttling”. Research conducted at the John F. Kennedy Space Center's Controlled Ecological Life Support System Breadboard Project has demonstrated the potential of throttling these fluxes by changing environmental parameters affecting the plant processes. Among the more effective environmental throttles are: light and CO2 concentration for controlling the rate of photosynthesis and humidity and CO2 concentration for controlling transpiration. Such a bioengineered strategy implies control mechanisms that in the past have not been widely attributed to life support systems involving biological components and suggests a broad range of applications in advanced life support system designs.

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