NASA has been developing Bioregenerative Life Support Systems (BLSS), supplying food and oxygen and removing carbon dioxide, as complement of physical and chemical life support systems for the future space exploration, Martian missions, and the construction of lunar bases. As plant-growing systems mature and expand for future exploration missions, the need to generate, analyze, and manage nutrient solutions will increase. Thus, an in-situ capability is needed to analyze, on a near-real-time basis, plant nutrient solutions or feed water in space missions to better understand and manage plant nutrient delivery. The technology would need to be robust and miniaturized, operate with low power, and have minimal consumables, in addition to meeting safety criteria.
In a Phase I feasibility study, Lynntech successfully demonstrated a Reagent-regenerative, Microgravity-compatible, Miniaturized Ion Analyzer (RMMIA) as a potential onboard analyzer for the elemental composition of plant growth solutions. The Phase I study demonstrated the RMMIA’s feasibility by carrying out a laboratory evaluation of key components and device sub-assemblies, with performance testing using representative plant nutrient solutions.
During the Phase II, an optimized RMMIA unit will be designed, fabricated, tested, and delivered to NASA. Testing will include nutrient solutions such as Hoagland solution. Deliverable items will demonstrate on-demand and in-line automated operation capabilities.
Direct NASA applications of the reagent-regenerative, microgravity-compatible, miniaturized ion analyzer (RMMIA) include the on-board elemental analysis device to analyze plant nutrient solutions or feed water to better understand and manage plant nutrient delivery on a near-real-time basis. The multi-analyte capability of the proposed technology will expand to measurements of ionic species in condensate, potable water, wastewater, byproducts of water treatment for manned space exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.
Successful development of the reagent-regenerative, miniaturized ion analyzer (RMMIA) as a portable device will have a high commercial applicability to a wide range of industries where water quality assurance and control are vital, such as to monitor source and drinking water, wastewater, recycled water, and industrial effluent in many industries.