Development of a Gravity-Independent Wastewater Bioprocessor for Advanced Life Support in Space
Abstract: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.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: March 1, 2005
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