NASA 1996 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER : 96-1 16.05-7770

PROJECT TITLE : Microgravity Compatible Reagentless Instrumentation for Detection of Dissolved Organic Acids in Potable Water.

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)

The trace organic content of finished water is an important parameter which should be monitored to ensure crew health and to diagnose potential problems with the primary water processor. A significant fraction of the dissolved organic carbon in water produced by current technology consists of low molecular weight carboxylic acids including: formic acid, acetic acid, and propionic acid. These acids are a significant component of humidity condensate, urine distillate, and composite wastewaters. They are also produced by catalytic oxidation reactors from partial oxidation of methanol, ethanol, and related contaminants. A novel instrumental approach is proposed which is suitable for both continuous and off-line monitoring of organic acids. The innovation is based upon pH adjustment using solid phase media to shift weak organic acids to the undissociated form, transport of the volatile acids across a membrane to a pure water stream whose pH promotes ionization, and specific conductance detection.
POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS
The proposed analytical technology can be applied as an organic acid selective detector for ion chromatography, capillary electrophoresis, and high pressure liquid chromatography, and for on-line detection of acetic acid in fermentation bioreactors. The majority of industrial fermentations produce either acetic acid or ethanol. In the first case a low molecular weight organic acid is the desired product, in the second case it is an undesirable by-product indicating that the fermenation reactions have gone too far. Within the governmental sphere, the technology will be embodied in flight hardware for the detection of aqueous organic acids in support of long duration manned missions in space.
NAME AND ADDRESS OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
James E. Atwater
Umpqua Research Company
P.O. Box 609
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457
NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR
Umpqua Research Company
P.O. Box 609
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457