NASA SBIR 2018-I Solicitation

Proposal Summary

 18-1- H3.01-8183
 Process Technologies for Water Recycling in Space
 Nanophotonic and Capillary Assisted Water Recovery
SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
SweetSense, Inc.
5548 Northeast 18th Avenue
Portland , OR 97211-5543
(303) 550-4671

Principal Investigator (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr. Evan Thomas
5548 NE 18th Ave Portland, OR 97211 - 5543
(303) 550-4671

Business Official (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Mr. Dexter Gauntlett
5548 NE 18th Ave Portland, OR 97211 - 5543
(503) 752-3944
Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 3
End: 5
Technical Abstract

The current generation of spacecraft and terrestrial water recovery technologies are often prone to failures caused by biofouling and mineral scaling, which can clog mechanical systems and degrade the performance of capillary-based technologies. These failures require expensive and time-consuming maintenance and resupply, and the technologies are therefore limited to environments where these resources are available. Long duration spaceflight applications, such as extended stays at a Lunar Outpost or during a Mars transit mission, will increasingly benefit from water recovery hardware that is generally more robust and operationally sustainable over time, and that minimizes the impact of fouling and hardware failures.

Our proposed water recovery concept takes advantage of the partial gravity on Mars or the lunar surface, while also being microgravity compatible. This will allow for a single water recovery system for both transit and planetary mission phases. This next-generation solid-state water recovery system for spacecraft will exploit a combination of advances in three areas of research, in order to manage wastewater recovery without rotating phase separators or chemical pretreatment. These research areas are:

  1. Capillary geometries for passive phase separation; 
  2. Nanoparticle-enhanced pasteurization of urine wastewater through localized surface plasmon resonance in lieu of oxidizing pretreatment chemicals, thereby minimizing consumables; and
  3. Leidenfrost-mediated fouling-free capillary distillation, accomplished in a heat pipe exceeding the Leidenfrost temperature to achieve contact-free vapor generation.
Potential NASA Applications

The Nanophotonic Capillary Distiller concept can be applied to a wide spectrum of spacecraft fluid management systems, for both short-term use and long-duration missions. The design will be adaptable to both microgravity and partial gravity environments, will target a 6-12 month transit period, operational periods in excess of 500 days, and a dormancy of two years or more. 

Potential Non-NASA Applications

Potential applications for uses other than with NASA missions include terrestrial wastewater management, water treatment and desalination in particular in remote, resource constrained environments. 

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