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Technical Paper

Solid Waste Processing - An Essential Technology for the Early Phases of Mars Exploration and Colonization

1997-07-01
972272
Terraforming of Mars is the long-term goal of colonization of Mars. However, this process is likely to be a very slow process and conservative estimates involving a synergetic, technocentric approach suggest that it may take around 10,000 years before the planet can be parallel to that of Earth and where humans can live in open systems (Fogg, 1995). Hence, for the foreseeable future, any missions will require habitation within small confined habitats with high biomass to atmospheric mass ratios, thereby requiring that all wastes be recycled. Processing of the wastes will ensure predictability and reliability of the ecosystem and reduce resupply logistics. Solid wastes, though smaller in volume and mass than the liquid wastes, contain more than 90% of the essential elements required by humans and plants.
Technical Paper

Waste Incineration for Resource Recovery in a Bioregenerative Life Support System

1997-07-01
972429
For the last two years, the University of Utah and Reaction Engineering International, in cooperation with NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), have been developing a waste incineration system for regenerative life support systems. The system is designed to burn inedible plant biomass and human waste. The goal is to obtain an exhaust gas clean enough to recycle to either the plant or human habitats. The incineration system, a fluidized bed reactor, has been designed for a 4-person mission. This paper will detail the design of the units. In addition, results will be presented from testing at the University of Utah. Presently, the unit has been shipped to Ames Research Center for more tests prior to delivery to Johnson Space Center for testing in a 90-day, 4-person test.
Technical Paper

An Evaluation of Potential Mars Transit Vehicle Water Treatment Systems

1998-07-13
981538
This paper compares four potential water treatment systems in the context of their applicability to a Mars transit vehicle mission. The systems selected for evaluation are the International Space Station system, a JSC bioreactor-based system, the vapor phase catalytic ammonia removal system, and the direct osmotic concentration system. All systems are evaluated on the basis of their applicability for use in the context of the Mars Reference Mission. Each system is evaluated on the basis of mass equivalency. The results of this analysis indicate that there is effectively no difference between the International Space Station system and the JSC bioreactor configurations. However, the vapor phase catalytic ammonia removal and the direct osmotic concentration systems offer a significantly lower mass equivalency (approximately 1/7 the ISS or bioreactor systems).
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

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

2006-07-17
2006-01-2185
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

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

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

Waste Compaction Technology Development for Human Space Exploration Missions

2007-07-09
2007-01-3265
Waste management is a critical component of life support systems for manned space exploration. Human occupied spacecraft and extraterrestrial habitats must be able to effectively manage the waste generated throughout the entire mission duration. The requirements for waste systems may vary according to specific mission scenarios but all waste management operations must allow for the effective collection, containment, processing, and storage of unwanted materials. NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle usually referred to as the CEV, will have limited volume for equipment and crew. Technologies that reduce waste storage volume free up valuable space for other equipment. Waste storage volume is a major driver for the Orion waste compactor design. Current efforts at NASA Ames Research Center involve the development of two different prototype compactors designed to minimize trash storage space.
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

Lyophilization for Water Recovery III, System Design

2005-07-11
2005-01-3084
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

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

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.
Technical Paper

Potential for Recovery of Plant Macronutrients from Space Habitat Wastes for Salad Crop Production

2001-07-09
2001-01-2350
Crop production in space habitats is currently under consideration as part of an advanced life support system. The scenarios for crop production vary depending on the mission objectives. For a mission scenario such as the International Space Station (ISS), current efforts propose only salad crop production. However in order to grow salad crops, there is a need for plant nutrients (elements) such as N, P, K, Ca, etc., which constitutes about 10% of dry weight of the plant. Nitrogen and potassium are the major elements needed by salad crops and currently require resupply on Station. However, it is feasible that these macronutrients could be recovered through the waste materials generated by the crew. The proposed concepts are non-oxidative and simple in design. This paper considers the potential for reclaiming macronutrients from urine and gray water concentrates from water recovery systems.
Technical Paper

Lyophilization for Water Recovery

2001-07-09
2001-01-2348
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

Incineration of Inedible Biomass in a Regenerative Life Support System - Update of Development Activities at ARC

2001-07-09
2001-01-2344
Of the many competing technologies for resource recovery from solid wastes for long duration manned missions such as a lunar or Mars base, incineration technology is one of the most promising and certainly the most well developed in a terrestrial sense. Various factors are involved in the design of an optimum fluidized bed incinerator for inedible biomass. The factors include variability of moisture in the biomass, the ash content, and the amount of fuel nitrogen in the biomass. The crop mixture in the waste will vary; consequently the nature of the waste, the nitrogen content, and the biomass heating values will vary as well. Variation in feed will result in variation in the amount of contaminants such as nitrogen oxides that are produced in the combustion part of the incinerator. The incinerator must be robust enough to handle this variability. Research at NASA Ames Research Center using the fluidized bed incinerator has yielded valuable data on system parameters and variables.
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

Lyophilization for Water Recovery II, Model Validation

2004-07-19
2004-01-2377
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.
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.
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