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Journal Article

Testing of a Plastic Melt Waste Compactor Designed for Human Space Exploration Missions

2009-07-12
2009-01-2363
Significant progress has been made at NASA Ames Research Center in the development of a heat melt compaction device called the Plastic Melt Waste Compactor (PMWC). The PMWC was designed to process wet and dry wastes generated on human space exploration missions. The wastes have a plastic content typically greater than twenty percent. The PMWC removes the water from the waste, reduces the volume, and encapsulates it by melting the plastic constituent of the waste. The PMWC is capable of large volume reductions. The final product is compacted waste disk that is easy to manage and requires minimal crew handling. This paper describes the results of tests conducted using the PMWC with a wet and dry waste composite that was representative of the waste types expected to be encountered on long duration human space exploration missions.
Technical Paper

Pyrolysis of Mixed Solid Food, Paper, and Packaging Wastes

2008-06-29
2008-01-2050
Pyrolysis is a very versatile waste processing technology which can be tailored to produce a variety of solid, liquid and/or gaseous products. The pyrolysis processing of pure and mixed solid waste streams has been under investigation for several decades for terrestrial use and a few commercial units have been built for niche applications. Pyrolysis has more recently been considered for the processing of mixed solid wastes in space. While pyrolysis units can easily handle mixed solid waste streams, the dependence of the pyrolysis product distribution on the component composition is not well known. It is often assumed that the waste components (e.g., food, paper, plastic) behave independently, but this is a generalization that can usually only be applied to the overall weight loss and not always to the yields of individual gas species.
Technical Paper

Compaction and Drying in a Low-Volume, Deployable Commode

2007-07-09
2007-01-3264
We present a device for collecting and storing feces in microgravity that is user-friendly yet suitable for spacecraft in which cabin volume and mass are constrained. On Apollo missions, the commode function was served using disposable plastic bags, which proved time-consuming and caused odor problems. On Skylab, the space shuttle, and the International Space Station, toilets have used airflow beneath a seat to control odors and collect feces. We propose to incorporate airflow into a system of self-compacting, self-drying collection and stowage bags, providing the benefits of previous commodes while minimizing mass and volume. Each collection bag consists of an inner layer of hydrophobic membrane that is permeable to air but not liquid or solid waste, an outer layer of impermeable plastic, and a collapsible spacer separating the inner and outer layers. Filled bags are connected to space vacuum, compacting and drying their contents.
Technical Paper

Odors in Space Environments - Sources and Control Strategies

2007-07-09
2007-01-3269
Management of human feces and wastes is a major challenge in space vehicles due to the potential biohazards and malodorous compounds emanating during collection and storage of feces and wastes. To facilitate safe, yet realistic human waste management research, we have previously developed human fecal simulants for research activities. The odoriferous compounds in feces and wastes reduce the quality of life for astronauts, can reduce performance, and can even cause health problems. The major odoriferous compounds of concern belong to four groups of chemicals, volatile fatty acids, volatile sulfurous compounds, nitrogenous compounds and phenols. This paper attempts to review the problem of odor detection and odor control with advanced technology. There has been considerable progress in odor detection and control in the animal industry and in the dental profession.
Technical Paper

Development of a Pilot Scale Apparatus for Control of Solid Waste Using Low Temperature Oxidation

2007-07-09
2007-01-3135
In February 2004 NASA released “The Vision for Space Exploration.” The important goals outlined in this document include extending human presence in the solar system culminating in the exploration of Mars. Unprocessed waste poses a biological hazard to crew health and morale. The waste processing methods currently under consideration include incineration, microbial oxidation, pyrolysis and compaction. Although each has advantages, no single method has yet been developed that is safe, recovers valuable resources including oxygen and water, and has low energy and space requirements. Thus, the objective of this project is to develop a low temperature oxidation process to convert waste cleanly and rapidly to carbon dioxide and water. In the Phase I project, TDA Research, Inc. demonstrated the potential of a low temperature oxidation process using ozone. In the current Phase II project, TDA and NASA Ames Research Center are developing a pilot scale low temperature ozone oxidation system.
Technical Paper

Carbon Production in Space from Pyrolysis of Solid Waste

2006-07-17
2006-01-2183
Pyrolysis processing of solid waste in space will inevitably lead to carbon formation as a primary pyrolysis product. The amount of carbon depends on the composition of the starting materials and the pyrolysis conditions (temperature, heating rate, residence time, pressure). Many paper and plastic materials produce almost no carbon residue upon pyrolysis, while most plant biomass materials or human wastes will yield up to 20-40 weight percent on a dry, as-received basis. In cases where carbon production is significant, it can be stored for later use to produce CO2 for plant growth. Alternatively it can be partly gasified by an oxidizing gas (e.g., CO2, H2O, O2) in order to produce activated carbon. Activated carbons have a unique capability of strongly absorbing a great variety of species, ranging from SO2 and NOx, trace organics, mercury, and other heavy metals.
Technical Paper

Control of Effluent Gases from Solid Waste Processing Using Impregnated Carbon Nanotubes

2005-07-11
2005-01-2946
One of the major problems associated with solid waste processing technologies is effluent contaminants that are released in gaseous forms from the processes. This is a concern in both biological as well as physicochemical solid waste processing. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the major gas released, does not present a serious problem and there are currently in place a number of flight-qualified technologies for CO2 removal. However, a number of other gases, in particular NOx, SO2, NH3, and various hydrocarbons (e.g. CH4) do present health hazards to the crew members in space habitats. In the present configuration of solid waste processing in the International Space Station (ISS), some of these gases are removed by the Trace Contaminant Control System (TCCS), demands a major resupply. Reduction of the resupply can be effective by using catalyst impregnated carbon nanotubes. For example, NO decomposition to N2 and O2 is thermodynamically favored.
Technical Paper

Testing and Analysis of the First Plastic Melt Waste Compactor Prototype

2005-07-11
2005-01-3080
A half scale version of a device called the Plastic Melt Waste Compactor prototype is being developed at NASA Ames Research Center to deal with plastic based wastes that are expected to be encountered in future human space exploration scenarios such as Lunar or Martian Missions. The Plastic Melt Waste Compactor design was based on the types of wastes produced on the International Space Station, Space Shuttle, MIR and Skylab missions. The half scale prototype unit will lead to the development of a full scale Plastic Melt Waste Compactor prototype that is representative of flight hardware that would be used on near and far term space missions. This paper details the progress of the Plastic Melt Waste Compactor Development effort by the Solid Waste Management group at NASA Ames Research Center.
Technical Paper

A Prototype Pyrolysis / Oxidation System for Solid Waste Processing

2005-07-11
2005-01-3083
Pyrolysis is a very versatile waste processing technology which can be tailored to produce a variety of solid liquid and/or gaseous products. The main disadvantages of pyrolysis processing are: (1) the product stream is more complex than for many of the alternative treatments; (2) the product gases cannot be vented directly into the cabin without further treatment because of the high CO concentrations. One possible solution is to combine a pyrolysis step with catalytic oxidation (combustion) of the effluent gases. This integration takes advantage of the best features of each process, which is insensitivity to product mix, no O2 consumption, and batch processing, in the case of pyrolysis, and simplicity of the product effluent stream in the case of oxidation. In addition, this hybrid process has the potential to result in a significant reduction in Equivalent System Mass (ESM) and system complexity.
Technical Paper

Impregnation of Catalytic Metals in Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes for Toxic Gas Conversion in Life Support System

2004-07-19
2004-01-2492
The development and characterization of an innovative approach for the control and elimination of gaseous toxins using single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) promise superior performance over conventional approaches. This is due to the ability of the nanotubes to direct the selective uptake of gaseous species based on their controllable pore size, high adsorptive capacity and their effectiveness as catalyst supports for gaseous conversion. A metal impregnated SWNT material has been proposed and synthesized for removing and converting the toxins in the life support system.
Technical Paper

An Evaluation of a Prototype Dry Pyrolysis System for Destruction of Solid Wastes

2004-07-19
2004-01-2379
Pyrolysis is a technology that can be used on future space missions to convert wastes to an inert char, water, and gases. The gases can be easily vented overboard on near term missions. For far term missions the gases could be directed to a combustor or recycled. The conversion to char and gases as well as the absence of a need for resupply materials are advantages of pyrolysis. A major disadvantage of pyrolysis is that it can produce tars that are difficult to handle and can cause plugging of the processing hardware. By controlling the heating rate of primary pyrolysis, the secondary (cracking) bed temperature, and residence time, it is possible that tar formation can be minimized for most biomass materials. This paper describes an experimental evaluation of two versions of pyrolysis reactors that were delivered to the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) as the end products of a Phase II and a Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project.
Technical Paper

A Hybrid Pyrolysis / Oxidation System for Solid Waste Resource Recovery

2004-07-19
2004-01-2380
Pyrolysis is a very versatile waste processing technology which can be tailored to produce a variety of solid, liquid, and/or gaseous products. The main disadvantages of pyrolysis processing are: (1) the product stream is more complex than for many of the alternative treatments; (2) the product gases cannot be vented directly into the cabin without further treatment because of the high CO concentrations. One possible solution is to combine a pyrolysis step with catalytic oxidation (combustion) of the effluent gases. This integration takes advantage of the best features of each process. The advantages of pyrolysis are: insensitivity to feedstock composition, no oxygen consumption, and batch operation. The main advantage of oxidation is the simplicity and consistency of the product stream. In addition, this hybrid process has the potential to result in a significant reduction in Equivalent System Mass (estimated at 10-40%) and system complexity.
Technical Paper

Development of Plastic Melt Waste Compactor for Space Missions - Experiments and Prototype Design

2004-07-19
2004-01-2378
This paper describes current work at NASA Ames Research Center on the development of a heat melt compactor that can be used on both near term and far term missions. Preliminary tests have been performed to characterize the behavior of composite wastes that are representative of the types of wastes produced on current and previous space missions such as International Space Station, Space Shuttle, MIR and Skylab. Preliminary tests were conducted to characterize the volume reduction, bonding, encapsulation and plastic extrusion of the waste composite. The preliminary tests are designed to provide the data needed to design the first prototype Plastic Melt Waste Compactor.
Technical Paper

Development of Metal-impregnated Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes for Toxic Gas Contaminant Control in Advanced Life Support Systems

2003-07-07
2003-01-2368
The success of physico-chemical waste processing and resource recovery technologies for life support application depends partly on the ability of gas clean-up systems to efficiently remove trace contaminants generated during the process with minimal use of expendables. Highly purified metal-impregnated carbon nanotubes promise superior performance over conventional approaches to gas clean-up due to their ability to direct the selective uptake gaseous species based both on the nanotube’s controlled pore size, high surface area, and ordered chemical structure that allows functionalization and on the nanotube’s effectiveness as a catalyst support material for toxic contaminants removal. We present results on the purification of single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) and efforts at metal impregnation of the SWCNT’s.
Technical Paper

Plastic Waste Processing and Volume Reduction for Resource Recovery and Storage in Space

2003-07-07
2003-01-2369
This paper describes work that has begun at Ames Research Center on development of a heat melt compactor that can be used on near term and future missions. The heat melt compactor can handle wastes with a significant plastic composition and minimize crew interaction. The current solid waste management system employed on the International Space Station (ISS) consists of compaction, storage, and disposal. Wastes such as plastic food packaging and trash are compacted manually and wrapped in duct taped “footballs” by the astronauts. Much of the waste is simply loaded into the empty Russian Progress spacecraft that is used to bring supplies to ISS. The progress spacecraft and its contents are intentionally burned up in the earth's atmosphere during reentry. This manual method of trash management on ISS is a wasteful use of crew time and does not transition well to far term missions.
Technical Paper

Oxygen Penalty for Waste Oxidation in an Advanced Life Support System - A Systems Approach

2002-07-15
2002-01-2396
Oxidation is one of a number of technologies that are being considered for waste management and resource recovery from waste materials generated on board space missions. Oxidation processes are a very effective and efficient means of clean and complete conversion of waste materials to sterile products. However, because oxidation uses oxygen there is an “oxygen penalty” associated either with resupply of oxygen or with recycling oxygen from some other source. This paper is a systems approach to the issue of oxygen penalty in life support systems and presents findings on the oxygen penalty associated with an integrated oxidation-Sabatier-Oxygen Generation System (OGS) for waste management in an Advanced Life Support System. The findings reveal that such an integrated system can be operated to form a variety of useful products without a significant oxygen penalty.
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