A Bioreactor System for the Nitrogen Loop in an Engineered Closed/Controlled Ecosystem 961506
As space missions become longer in duration, the need to recycle waste into useful compounds rises dramatically. This problem can be addressed through the integration of human and plant modules in an ecological life support system. One of the waste streams leaving the human module is urine. In addition to the reclamation of water from urine, recovery of the nitrogen is important because it can be used as a nutrient for the plant module. A 3-step biological process for the conversion of nitrogenous waste (urea) to resource (nitrate) is proposed. Mathematical modeling was used to investigate the bioreactor system, with the goal of maximizing the ratio of performance to volume and energy requirements. Calculations show that separation of the two microbial conversions into two steps requires a smaller total reactor volume than combining them in a single bioreactor. Based on proposed optimization criteria, a bioreactor system consisting of a plug flow immobilized urease reactor, a completely mixed flow immobilized cell reactor to convert ammonia to nitrite, and a plug flow immobilized cell reactor to produce nitrate from nitrite is recommended.