NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 B3.06-8171
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Waste and Water Processing for Spacecraft Advanced Life Support
PROPOSAL TITLE: Thermally Regenerable Ion Exchange Resins

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Umpqua Research Company
P.O. Box 609
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457-0102

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James R. Akse, Ph.D.
PO Box 609
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457-0102

Future Exploration Initiative missions will require substantial reductions in ESM for water processing hardware. Significant reductions can be achieved using water treatment systems based upon thermally regenerable ion-exchange (TRIX) resins. Ion-exchange (IX) has been the preferred method for removal of aqueous ionic contaminants due to the efficiency of flow-through beds. Attributes of IX systems include ambient temperature and pressure operation, minimal energy use, rapid and efficient contaminant removal, and compared to other purification technologies, failure mechanisms are relatively benign. However, strong acid and alkali are required to regenerate these beds, making regeneration aboard spacecraft impractical. New hybrid TRIX resins developed at UMPQUA RESEARCH COMPANY offer the potential to remove ionic contaminants from water with an acceptable ESM, while retaining the intrinsic advantages of flow-through IX beds. Testing and further development of TRIX is proposed for removal of ionic contaminants from wastewater generated by future transit and early planetary base missions. The primary program objective will be the demonstration of efficient salt removal from different wastewater sources using TRIX resins. Phase I will demonstrate feasibility of water purification based upon TRIX. Phase II will result in development and testing of a fully functional system suitable for further independent testing by NASA.

The ESM for current and future water reclamation systems will be lowered by replacement of ion-exchange sub-processes with a TRIX system. TRIX systems can also be designed to augment other water treatment methods, such as for ammonia removal and nitrate recovery from biological water processor (BWPs), salt removal from post-treated photocatalytic or catalytic oxidation effluents, or salt removal from intermediate treatment processes such as reverse osmosis (RO).

Employment of TRIX as a salt-free water softener for domestic and commercial uses, will be a major environmental benefit. TRIX will reduce regeneration chemical requirements for commercial ion-exchange systems. Commercial interest has been indicated by Novation Environmental Technologies for development of 'brine free' water softening methods and hardware to treat problematic industrial waste streams. Novation has expressed willingness to provide realistic waste stream compositions which cannot easily be treated by conventional methods, and to facilitate field trials in support of commercialization. Water purification systems based upon TRIX also have strong potential commercial application in the chemical, semiconductor, and pharmaceutical industries.