Air Revitalization for Vacuum Environments

Air Revitalization for Vacuum Environments (MFS-TOPS-82)
Sorbent-based Atmosphere Revitalization System for Crewed Vehicles
NASA has developed a lightweight atmosphere revitalization system to support short-duration human space flights. Air revitalization is a critical component of manned space flights since passenger-carrying vehicles require a way to control humidity and process metabolic carbon dioxide to sustain an environment that can support human life. For long-duration flights, metabolic water from respiration and evaporated sweat are typically treated and reclaimed, requiring extra equipment such as gas/liquid separators and condensing heat exchangers. To minimize equipment and reduce excess loads, NASA developed an adsorption-based carbon dioxide scrubber and water removal system for disposal in vacuum environments, ultimately reducing mass, power, and volume requirements. The lightweight, low-mass system is also regenerable, flexible, and can be arranged into different spatial configurations.

The Technology
The NASA life support system uses a regenerable vacuum swing adsorption process, known as Sorbent-Based Air Revitalization (SBAR), to separate water and carbon dioxide for disposal. The SBAR system is an adsorbent-based swing bed system that has been optimized to provide both humidity and carbon dioxide control for a spacecraft cabin atmosphere. The system comprises composite silica gel and zeolite-packed beds for adsorption and a bypass system for flow control. Under normal operating conditions, the disposal system would require a high-quality vacuum environment to operate. Improvements to the SBAR system include an enhanced inherent capacitance that extends the operation time within a non-vacuum environment for up to 4.5 hours. Flight time can be further expanded with multiple SBAR systems to allow for system regeneration. By scheduling periodic thermal regenerations&#151nominally during sleep periods&#151the SBAR technology may be suitable for missions of unlimited duration.
front A single SBAR system maintains cabin CO2 pp at safe levels. Additional testing confirmed that using two SBAR systems jointly would further maintain a CO2 pp well below 4 mmHg.
  • Lightweight
  • Regenerable
  • Reconfigurable
  • Nonflammable

  • Spacecrafts
  • Submersible crafts
  • Airtight chambers
Technology Details

Knox, J.C., H. Gauto, D. Trinh, D. Wingard, R. Gostowski, D. Watson, and K. Kittredge. Development of Carbon Dioxide Removal Systems for Advanced Exploration Systems 2012-2013. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. 2013. Miller, L. and J.C. Knox. Development and Testing of a Sorbent-Based Atmospheric Revitalization System 2010/2011. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. 2011.
Similar Results
ISS as seen by STS-124; Photo Credit: NASA on the Commons,
Liquid Sorbent Carbon Dioxide Removal System
NASA's Liquid Sorbent Carbon Dioxide Removal System was designed as an alternative to the current CO2 removal technology used on the International Space Station (ISS), which uses solid zeolite media that is prone to dusting, has a low absorption capacity, and requires high regeneration temperatures and frequent maintenance. Motivated by CO2 removal systems on submarines, NASA innovators began investigating the use of liquid sorbents. Liquid sorbents have a capacity four times greater than solid zeolites, require low regeneration temperature, and need fewer unreliable moving mechanical parts than solid based systems. While submarine CO2 scrubbers spray an adsorbing chemical directly into the air stream and allow the liquid to settle, NASA's new system uses a capillary driven 3D printed microchannel direct air/liquid contactor in a closed loop system. The Liquid Sorbent Carbon Dioxide Removal System is robust and reliable, while being low in weight, volume, and power requirements. The system is capable of reaching equilibrium when the liquid sorbent surface is being regenerated at a rate equal to the rate of absorption into the liquid.
Contaminated Water Treatment
Contaminated Water Treatment
This invention is a system and associated method that is a two step process. It provides a contaminant treatment pouch, referred to as a urine cell or contaminant cell that converts urine or another liquid containing contaminants into a fortified drink, engineered to meet human hydration, electrolyte and caloric requirements. It uses a variant of forward osmosis (FO) to draw water from a urine container into the concentrated fortified drink as part of a recycling stage. An activated carbon pretreatment removes most organic molecules. Salinity of the initial liquid mix (urine plus other) is synergistically used to enhance the precipitation of organic molecules so that activated carbon can remove most of the organics. A functional osmotic bag is then used to remove inorganic contaminants. If a contaminant is processed for which the saline content is different than optimal for precipitating organic molecules, the saline content of the liquid should be adjusted toward the optimal value for that contaminant.
Modular System for Waste Treatment, Water Recycling, and Resource Recovery
Because resupply of commodities for long duration space missions would be prohibitively expensive and could take an extensive length of time to reach habitats in orbit around or on other planetary bodies, it is critical that astronauts have the ability to recycle and reuse local waste streams to provide resources such as clean water, fuel, and nutrients for growing plants. Scientists at Kennedy Space Center and the University of South Florida have developed a technology that addresses this critical mission need. The modular system design incorporates all wastewater streams and some food waste including urine water, hygiene water, humidity condensate, Sabatier water, fecal waste, laundry water, and organic food waste. These sources are fed simultaneously into the system, and a function-driven, sequential purification process occurs. The primary processes include carbon conversion, phase separation (solid/liquid/gas), disinfection, nutrient/salts management, and salts balancing to generate a clean water stream. The heart of the closed-loop bio-regenerative system is an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR), which takes raw wastewater streams and utilizes an anaerobic microbial consortium to carry out the breakdown of the organic matter. An ultrafiltration membrane captures and destroys pathogenic bacteria and viruses. The AnMBR system generates a clean water stream containing fertilizer constituents which can be used to cultivate either microalgae (for food, pharma/nutraceuticals, fuel or bioplastics) in photobioreactors or crops in hydroponic systems. The system also generates methane and hydrogen gas which can be used for fuel (or conversion to bioplastics), and CO2 which can be used to support plant growth.
Wastewater Treatment and Remediation
NASA's system was developed for smaller-scale, space-based applications. However, the technology is scalable for larger industrial and municipal water treatment applications. Implementation of the Ammonia Recovery System could significantly reduce nitrogen content from water treatment processes, meaningfully improving the quality of water. This system offers a novel way to reduce nitrogen water pollutants, while allowing for the nitrogen to be collected and reused- reducing environmental and public health risks and providing an environmentally friendly fertilizer option. NASAs environmental solutions work to sustain life on earth through space based technology The adaptable nature of this system gives it potentially broad applications in a wide variety of industries; it is particularly ideal for on-site remediation of wastewater in places like condo complexes, hotels and water parks. Current methods of ammonia recovery could not meet NASAs mission requirements, so a new process was devised to optimize for high ammonia selectivity, simplicity, low volume , low power usage and zero contaminants in the effluent. To do this, NASA designed a novel regenerable struvite-formation system for the capture of ammonia. This system has three primary functions: 1) Removal of ammonia from wastewater using a media that is highly selective for ammonia 2) Capture of the ammonia for later use (e.g., as a fertilizer) 3) Regeneration of the capture media for reuse in the system
NEW CFC Front Image
Cryogenic Flux Capacitor
Storage and transfer of fluid commodities such as oxygen, hydrogen, natural gas, nitrogen, argon, etc. is an absolute necessity in virtually every industry on Earth. These fluids are typically contained in one of two ways; as low pressure, cryogenic liquids, or as a high pressure gases. Energy storage is not useful unless the energy can be practically obtained ("un-stored") as needed. Here the goal is to store as many fluid molecules as possible in the smallest, lightest weight volume possible; and to supply ("un-store") those molecules on demand as needed in the end-use application. The CFC concept addresses this dual storage/usage problem with an elegant charging/discharging design approach. The CFC's packaging is ingeniously designed, tightly packing aerogel composite materials within a container allows for a greater amount of storage media to be packed densely and strategically. An integrated conductive membrane also acts as a highly effective heat exchanger that easily distributes heat through the entire container to discharge the CFC quickly, it can also be interfaced to a cooling source for convenient system charging; this feature also allows the fluid to easily saturate the container for fast charging. Additionally, the unit can be charged either with cryogenic liquid or from an ambient temperature gas supply, depending on the desired manner of refrigeration. Finally, the heater integration system offers two promising methods, both of which have been fabricated and tested, to evenly distribute heat throughout the entire core, both axially and radially.
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