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Technical Paper

Modeling of Heat and Mass Transfer in a TEC-Driven Lyophilizer

Dewatering of wet waste during space exploration missions is important for crew safety as it stabilizes the waste. It may also be used to recover water and serve as a preconditioning step for waste compaction. A thermoelectric cooler (TEC)- driven lyophilizer is under development at NASA Ames Research Center for this purpose. It has three major components: (i) an evaporator section where water vapor sublimes from the frozen waste, (ii) a condenser section where this water vapor deposits as ice, and (iii) a TEC section which serves as a heat pump to transfer heat from the condenser to the evaporator. This paper analyses the heat and mass transfer processes in the lyophilizer in an effort to understand the ice formation behavior in the condenser. The analysis is supported by experimental observations of ice formation patterns in two different condenser units.
Technical Paper

Compaction and Drying in a Low-Volume, Deployable Commode

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

Lyophilization for Water Recovery III, System Design

Mixed liquid/solid wastes, including feces, water processor effluents, and food waste, can be lyophilized (freeze-dried) to recover the water they contain and stabilize the solids that remain. Our previous research has demonstrated the potential benefits of using thermoelectric heat pumps to build a lyophilizer for processing waste in microgravity. These results were used to build a working prototype suitable for ground-based human testing. This paper describes the prototype design and presents results of functional and performance tests.
Technical Paper

Lyophilization for Water Recovery

An energy-efficient lyophilization technique is being developed to recover water from highly contaminated spacecraft waste streams. In the lyophilization process, water in an aqueous waste is frozen and then sublimed, separating the waste into a dried solid material and liquid water. This technology is ideally suited to applications such as the Mars Reference Mission, where water recovery rates approaching 100% are desirable but production of CO2 is not. Candidate wastes include feces, concentrated brines from water processors, and other solid wastes that contain water. To operate in microgravity, and to minimize power consumption, thermoelectric heat pumps can be used in place of traditional fluid cycle heat pumps. A mathematical model of a thermoelectric lyophilizer is described and used to generate energy use and processing rate estimates.
Technical Paper

Lyophilization for Water Recovery II, Model Validation

This paper presents results of research on a solid waste dryer, based of the process of lyophilization, which recovers water and stabilizes solid waste. A lyophilizer has been developed and tested that uses thermoelectric heat pumps (TECs) to recycle heat during drying. The properties of TECs facilitate direct measurement of heat flow rates, and heat flow data are used to evaluate a heat and mass transfer model of the thermoelectric lyophilizer. Data are consistent with the theoretical model in most respects. Practical problems such as insulation and vacuum maintenance are minor in this system. However, the model’s assumption of a uniformly retreating ice layer during drying is valid only for the first 30% of water removed. Beyond this point, a shrinking core or lens model is more appropriate. Heat transfer to the shrinking core surrounded by dried material is slow.
Journal Article

Waste Management Technology and the Drivers for Space Missions

Since the mid 1980s, NASA has developed advanced waste management technologies that collect and process waste. These technologies include incineration, hydrothermal oxidation, pyrolysis, electrochemical oxidation, activated carbon production, brine dewatering, slurry bioreactor oxidation, composting, NOx control, compaction, and waste collection. Some of these technologies recover resources such as water, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon, fuels, and nutrients. Other technologies such as the Waste Collection System (WCS - the commode) collect waste for storage or processing. The need for waste processing varies greatly depending upon the mission scenario. This paper reviews the waste management technology development activities conducted by NASA since the mid 1980s and explores the drivers that determine the application of these technologies to future missions.