Ultrasonic Technology Solutions (UTS) aims to develop a transformative human solid waste management system for the International Space Station (ISS) that uses our unique, efficient and fast direct-contact ultrasonic drying method. Human metabolic solid waste (feces) contains 75% water by mass which is currently not recovered on the ISS and is instead transported back to earth. Return transportation of this waste results in significant cost and unneeded payload utilization. Water recovery and stabilization of solid waste is a critical technology gap for long-duration human planetary exploration and future missions to the moon and Mars. Under SBIR Phase Ι, direct contact ultrasonic results showed that it is feasible to remove 80-100% of the water from human solid waste at the rate exceeding >140 kg/m2.hr, which is about 2 orders of magnitude faster than conventional thermal (evaporative) based drying at a fraction of the energy input.
The direct contact ultrasonic drying technology was invented at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 2015. During 2015-2017, the ORNL team demonstrated five times higher drying energy efficiency for clothing (1/5th of the energy input) and two times faster drying rates compared to state-of-the-art residential clothes dryers. In September 2018 the lead inventor, Dr. Ayyoub Momen, along with a team of seasoned professionals launched UTS, and exclusively licensed the direct contact ultrasonic drying technology from ORNL for commercial and industrial fields of use. Phase Ι of SBIR showed a promising result for removing water from feces. Under SBIR Phase II, the team is planning to design, develop and evaluate the performance of a full-scale ultrasonic drying machine that is compatible with the established solid waste management system at ISS.
Removing water using direct contact ultrasonic drying can potentially reduce the operational cost of space travel and improve crew hygiene and comfort. Excess water in feces adds up to approximately 680 kgs (1,496 lbs.) of unnecessary waste for a 1,000-day mission by a crew of four.
Direct contact ultrasonic drying is a platform technology that has the potential to dry many types of material. Many other industries and markets have strong potential for long term business. UTS has also chosen the niche market of industrial textile drying machines as a complementary industrial market to enter.