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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

Reactive Carbon from Life Support Wastes for Incinerator Flue Gas Cleanup

2000-07-10
2000-01-2283
This paper presents the results from a joint research initiative between NASA Ames Research Center and Lawrence Berkeley National lab. The objective of the research is to produce activated carbon from life support wastes and to use the activated carbon to adsorb and chemically reduce the NOx and SO2 contained in incinerator flue gas. Inedible biomass waste from food production is the primary waste considered for conversion to activated carbon. Results to date show adsorption of both NOx and SO2 in activated carbon made from biomass. Conversion of adsorbed NOx to nitrogen has also been observed.
Technical Paper

Investigating the Partitioning of Inorganic Elements Consumed by Humans between the Various Fractions of Human Wastes - An Alternative Approach

2003-07-07
2003-01-2371
The elemental composition of food consumed by astronauts is well defined. The major elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur are taken up in large amounts and these are often associated with the organic fraction (carbohydrates, proteins, fats etc) of human tissue. On the other hand, a number of the elements are located in the extracellular fluids and can be accounted for in the liquid and solid waste fraction of humans. These elements fall into three major categories - cationic macroelements (e.g. Ca, K, Na, Mg and Si), anionic macroelements (e.g. P, S and Cl and17 essential microelements, (e.g. Fe, Mn, Cr, Co, Cu, Zn, Se and Sr). When provided in the recommended concentrations to an adult healthy human, these elements should not normally accumulate in humans and will eventually be excreted in the different human wastes.
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

Experimental Results Obtained with a Pilot Scale System to Remove Pollutants from an Incinerator Effluent

2002-07-15
2002-01-2395
Incineration is a promising method for converting biomass and human waste into CO2 and H2O during extended planetary exploration. Unfortunately, it produces NOX and other pollutants. TDA Research has developed a safe and effective process to remove NOX from waste incinerator product gas streams. In our process, NO is catalytically oxidized to NO2, which is then removed with a wet scrubber. In a SBIR Phase II project, TDA designed and constructed a pilot scale system, which will be used with the incinerator at NASA Ames Research Center. In this paper, we present test results obtained with our system, which clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach to NOX control.
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

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.
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