Among numerous technological advances sought in order to facilitate human space travel, innovations are needed that supports the mass- and energy-efficient maintenance of closed air, water, and waste systems in spacecraft habitats that operate on planetary environments such as Mars and within microgravity. Waste-water treatment system on board the ISS is one such system that has lifetime/durability limitations and would benefit from improvements. Therefore, in this Phase II STTR program Faraday will continue the technology development efforts of the Phase I by: (1) leveraging existing knowledge in the combined expertise of Faraday and UPR for device design and testing under zero gravity conditions; (2) exploring the bacteria for urea bioreactor and electrocatalyst for ammonia reactor tailored for zero gravity conditions of our subcontractor UPR, (3) optimizing the electrocatalytic efficiency and waste water treatment rate with on-board water simulates, (4) validating performance under zero gravity conditions; and (5) designing and building a demonstration-scale bio-electrochemical reactor unit capable of meeting NASA required specifications . This evaluation will enable TRL enhancement and demonstrate a potential path forward for Phase II scale-up and assessment of the bio-electrochemical system in zero-gravity environments. This technology has the potential to be an integral part of long term life support on NASA’s manned space missions.
The proposed technology will be used to treat waste-water onboard the ISS to enable improved durability and efficient reduction of contaminants that cause membrane fouling or performance degradation. We anticipate delivery of prototype units to NASA in Phase III for additional longer-term testing, including more extensive zero-gravity testing or experimentation onboard ISS. Once validation is complete and TRL 9 has been achieved, the bio-electrochemical units may be delivered to ISS via entities such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK. Upon successful implementation at ISS, this technology could be combined within the next generation ECLSS architectures and utilized on future man missions to Mars.
The primary customer is NASA, but humanitarian initiative to improve water utilization and recovery could be an invaluable to the world’s population. Some potential installation/sales targets include naval warships and military field hospitals. In 2015 United Nations reported that more than 40% of global population is affected by water scarcity and this number continues to increase. For this reason, water recovery from waste water is essential to human race. The proposed innovation thus has the potential to be useful in regions where water is scarce commodity or water recovery would be invaluable. The proposed system is envisioned to be an add-on to existing osmosis technology that could reduce cost/maintenance of the osmotic components.