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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

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

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).