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Development of a Gravity-Independent Wastewater Bioprocessor for Advanced Life Support in Space

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Operation of aerobic biological reactors in space is controlled by a number of challenging constraints, mainly stemming from mass transfer limitations and phase separation. Immobilized-cell packed-bed bioreactors, specially designed to function in the absence of gravity, offer a viable solution for the treatment of gray water generated in space stations and spacecrafts. A novel gravity-independent wastewater biological processor, capable of carbon oxidation and nitrification of high-strength aqueous waste streams, is presented. The system, consisting of a fully saturated pressurized packed bed and a membrane oxygenation module attached to an external recirculation loop, operated continuously for over one year. The system attained high carbon oxidation efficiencies often exceeding 90% and ammonia oxidation reaching approximately 60%. The oxygen supply module relies on hydrophobic, nonporous, oxygen selective membranes, in a shell and tube configuration, for transferring oxygen to the packed bed, while keeping the gaseous and liquid phases separated. This reactor configuration and operating mode render the system gravity-independent and suitable for space applications.

Keywords: attached growth; gray water; membrane oxygenation; microgravity; pressurized bioreactor

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2005

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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