NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 X2.03-8729
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Spacecraft Habitation and Waste Management Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Brine Dewatering using Ultrasonic Nebulization

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
UMPQUA Research Company
PO Box 609
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457 - 0102
(541) 863-7770

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
(541) 863-2653

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Recovery of water from brine is critically important for manned space exploration. Resupply of water is prohibitively costly for extended missions. It is anticipated that NASA will pool urine, hygiene water and humidity condensate into a combined waste stream that will subsequently be concentrated into a brine while recovering some but not all of the water, 90-95%. The concentrated brine that results from primary water recovery systems contains a significant amount of water. The proposed innovation will recover virtually all of the remaining water. This will be accomplished by ultrasonically creating nebulized droplets of the brine that can be readily dried under a partial vacuum with moderate temperature microwave heating. The process bears some resemblance to spray drying, but uses much smaller droplets (1.6 µm as compared to ~100 µm). Small droplets enable quicker drying due to their high relative surface area. This is particularly important when drying wastewater brines which contain ingredients that are thermally labile and require drying at relatively low temperatures. The proposed system has no nozzles to become plugged, requires no chemical additives, uses a minimal amount of power, is simple and small, requires minimal astronaut attention and uses a continuous, closed cycle process that is gravity independent.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The NASA application of this innovative technology will be as Hardware for Lunar Base and other Early Planetary Bases. The partial gravity at these locations will permit nebulization without the use of a wick. Gravity based water accumulation at the bottom of the condenser will be accomplished without the assistance of an air/water separator. This technology will enable efficient water recovery from brines resulting in a major mass closure for water usage on the Lunar Base.
Use as Flight Hardware for Transit Missions is also anticipated. With this application, a wick will be used to hold the brine at the desired location during nebulization. An air/water separator will be included to facilitate separation without the assistance of gravity.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
For the private sector, a major application is improved drying processes for pharmaceuticals. Many biologically active compounds are thermally labile and would benefit from the use of this technology for preparation of inhalants. In addition, the ultra-small size of the resulting particles is desirable for inhalation because they are more easily suspended in air and because solvation and uptake through the alveoli in the lungs is more efficient for small particles. For example, NaCl particles are widely used in dry powder inhalers for bronchial provocation tests to identify people with active asthma or exercise-induced asthma. Such powders are currently made using laborious processes to control particle sizes and distributions. The technology developed during this SBIR project will allow continuous formation of small, dried NaCl crystallites, in a process more amenable for large-scale production.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Waste Processing and Reclamation

Form Generated on 11-24-08 11:56