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Technical Paper

Microwave Powered Gravitationally Independent Medical Grade Water Generation

The on-demand production of Medical Grade Water (MGW) is a critical biomedical requirement for future long-duration exploration missions. Potentially, large volumes of MGW may be needed to treat burn victims, with lesser amounts required to reconstitute pharmacological agents for medical preparations and biological experiments, and to formulate parenteral fluids during medical treatment. Storage of MGW is an untenable means to meet this requirement, as are nominal MGW production methods, which use a complex set of processes to remove chemical contaminants, inactivate all microorganisms, and eliminate endotoxins, a toxin originating from gram-negative bacteria cell walls. An innovative microgravity compatible alternative, using a microwave-based MGW generator, is described in this paper. The MGW generator efficiently couples microwaves to a single-phase flowing stream, resulting in super-autoclave temperatures.
Technical Paper

Catalytic Decomposition of Gaseous Byproducts from Primary Solid Waste Treatment Technologies

Several solid waste management (SWM) systems currently under development for spacecraft deployment result in the production of a variety of toxic gaseous contaminants. Examples include the Plastic Melt Waste Compactor (PMWC) at NASA - Ames Research Center1, the Oxidation/Pyrolysis system at Advanced Fuel Research2, and the Microwave Powered Solid Waste Stabilization and Water Recovery (MWSWS&WR) System at UMPQUA Research Company (URC). The current International Space Station (ISS) airborne contaminant removal system, the Trace Contaminant Control Subassembly (TCCS), is designed to efficiently process nominal airborne contaminants in spacecraft cabin air. However, the TCCS has no capability to periodically process the highly concentrated toxic vapors of variable composition, which are generated during solid waste processing, without significant modifications.
Technical Paper

Magnetically Assisted Gasification of Solid Wastes: Comparison of Reaction Strategies

Gradient magnetically assisted fluidized bed (G-MAFB) methods are under development for the decomposition of solid waste materials in microgravity and hypogravity environments. The G-MAFB has been demonstrated in both laboratory and microgravity flight experiments. In this paper we summarize the results of gasification reactions conducted under a variety of conditions, including: combustion, pyrolysis (thermal decomposition), and steam reforming with and without oxygen addition. Wheat straw, representing a typical inedible plant biomass fraction, was chosen for this study because it is significantly more difficult to gasify than many other typical forms of solid waste such as food scraps, feces, and paper. In these experiments, major gasification products were quantified, including: ash, char, tar, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, oxygen, and hydrogen.
Technical Paper

Magnetically Assisted Filtration of Solid Wastes: Laboratory and Flight Experiments

Solid wastes can be separated from aqueous streams and concentrated by filtration in a magnetically assisted fluidized bed. In this work the filtration of solid waste materials using filter beds consisting of granular ferromagnetic media is demonstrated. The degree of bed consolidation (or conversely fluidization) is controlled by the application of magnetic forces. In the Magnetically Assisted Gasification (MAG) process, solids are first entrapped by filtration, and then fluidized and transferred to a high temperature reactor where they are thermally decomposed. The maximum particle loading for the filter bed is determined by the intergranular void space. Using magnetic methods, it is possible to manipulate the degree of compaction as the filtration progresses to increase the void space and thereby maximize the loading capacity and efficiency of the filter. This process is completely compatible with operation in microgravity and hypogravity.
Technical Paper

Mesoporous Oxide Supported Catalysts for Low Temperature Oxidation of Dissolved Organics in Spacecraft Wastewater Streams

Novel mesoporous bimetallic oxidation catalysts are described, which are currently under development for the deep oxidation (mineralization) of aqueous organic contaminants in wastewater produced on-board manned spacecraft, and lunar and planetary habitats. The goal of the ongoing development program is to produce catalysts capable of organic contaminant mineralization near ambient temperature. Such a development will significantly reduce Equivalent System Mass (ESM) for the ISS Water Processor Assembly (WPA), which must operate at 135°C to convert organic carbon to CO2 and carboxylic acids. Improvements in catalyst performance were achieved due to the unique structural characteristics of mesoporous materials, which include a three-dimensional network of partially ordered interconnected mesopores (5-25 nm).
Technical Paper

Immobilized Antimicrobials for the Enhanced Control of Microbial Contamination

The active control of problematic microbial populations aboard spacecraft, and within future lunar and planetary habitats is a fundamental Advanced Life Support (ALS) requirement to ensure the long-term protection of crewmembers from infectious disease, and to shield materials and equipment from biofouling and biodegradation. The development of effective antimicrobial coatings and materials is an important first step towards achieving this goal and was the focus of our research. A variety of materials were coated with antibacterial and antifungal agents using covalent linkages. Substrates included both granular media and materials of construction. Granular media may be employed to reduce the number of viable microorganisms within flowing aqueous streams, to inhibit the colonization and formation of biofilms within piping, tubing and instrumentation, and to amplify the biocidal activity of low aqueous iodine concentrations.
Technical Paper

Development of Enabling Technologies for Magnetically Assisted Gasification of Solid Wastes

Magnetically Assisted Gasification (MAG) is a relatively new concept for the destruction of solid wastes aboard spacecraft, lunar and planetary habitations. Three sequential steps are used to convert the organic constituents of waste materials into useful gases: filtration, gasification, and ash removal. In the filtration step, an aqueous suspension of comminuted waste is separated and concentrated using a magnetically consolidated depth filter composed of granular ferromagnetic media. Once the filter is fully loaded, the entrapped solids are thermochemically gasified via a variety of mechanisms including pyrolysis, isomerization, and oxidation reactions. Finally, the inorganic ash residue is removed from the magnetic media by fluidization and trapped downstream by filtration. Importantly, for each of these steps, the degree of consolidation or fluidization of the granular ferromagnetic media is controlled using magnetic forces.
Technical Paper

Ambient Temperature Removal of Problematic Organic Compounds from ISS Wastewater

Small, highly polar organics such as urea, alcohols, acetone, and glycols are not easily removed by the International Space Station's Water Recovery System. The current design utilizes the Volatile Removal Assembly (VRA) which operates at 125°C to catalytically oxidize these contaminants. Since decomposition of these organics under milder conditions would be beneficial, several ambient temperature biocatalytic and catalytic processes were evaluated in our laboratory. Enzymatic oxidation and ambient temperature heterogeneous catalytic oxidation of these contaminants were explored. Oxidation of alcohols proceeded rapidly using alcohol oxidase; however, effective enzymes to degrade other contaminants except urea were not found. Importantly, both alcohols and glycols were efficiently oxidized at ambient temperature using a highly active, bimetallic noble metal catalyst.
Technical Paper

Magnetically Assisted Gasification of Solid Waste

A variety of techniques, including supercritical water oxidation, fluidized bed combustion, and microwave incineration have been applied to the destruction of solid wastes produced in regenerative life support systems supporting long duration manned missions. Among potential problems which still deserve attention are the need for operation in a variety of gravitational environments, and the requirement for improved methods of presenting concentrated solids to the reactor. Significant improvements in these areas are made possible through employment of the magnetically assisted gasification process. In this paper, magnetic methods are described for manipulating the degree of consolidation or fluidization of granular ferromagnetic media, for application in a gravity independent three step solid waste destruction process.
Technical Paper

CO2 Controller for Plant Growth Chambers

A new technology for controlling the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in a plant growth chamber (PGC) has been demonstrated. CO2 is gathered from the source atmosphere across a membrane gas exchanger and stored in an alkanolamine solution. The CO2 loading of the alkanolamine reservoir is monitored using specific conductance and controlled by the exposure time and temperature. The PGC pCO2 is maintained using a second membrane exchanger through which the alkanolamine circulates, absorbing or releasing CO2 to maintain equilibrium. The equilibrium pCO2 is determined by the CO2 loading and the temperature. Constant PGC feed pCO2 levels of roughly 1000 ppm have been maintained using sources with pCO2 both above and below this value.
Technical Paper

Aqueous Phase Ammonia Removal and Destruction System (APARDS)

In order to meet NASA potable water standards using biological processing, additional purification is needed. Elimination of ammonia species is a significant post-treatment step to achieve this goal. New technology, combining membrane transport and electro-oxidation of ammonia, was developed to solve this problem without the use of expendables. The Aqueous Phase Ammonia Removal and Destruction System (APARDS) Phase I Program rigorously demonstrated the feasibility of each sub-process, and an integrated system was developed that removed and destroyed ammonia from a simulated bioreactor effluent. Membranes and process conditions suitable for ammonia removal have been determined. An Ammonia Removal Module (ARM) was designed for the efficient transfer of ammonia to a secondary electro-oxidation stream where the ammonia was destroyed. The electrolysis cell's electrodes, operational voltage, and flow characteristics were optimized to rapidly destroy ammonia.
Technical Paper

Chemiluminescent Ethanol Biosensor Development

The investigation and development of a chemiluminescence based ethanol detection concept into a biosensor system is described. The biosensor uses alcohol oxidase to catalyze the reaction of short chain primary alcohols with elemental oxygen to produce hydrogen peroxide and the corresponding aldehyde. The reaction of hydrogen peroxide with an organic luminophore in the presence of a sufficient electric field results in emission of blue light with peak intensity at 425nm. The chemiluminescent light intensity is directly proportional to the alcohol concentration of the sample. The aqueous phase chemistry required for sensor operation is implemented using solid phase modules which adjust the pH of the influent stream, catalyze the oxidation of alcohol, provide the controlled addition of the luminophore to the flowing aqueous stream, and minimize the requirement for expendables. Precise control of the pH has proven essential for the long-term sustained release of the luminophore.