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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

A Novel, Membrane-Based Bioreactor Design to Enable a Closed-Loop System on Earth and Beyond

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

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The proposed innovation is a membrane bioreactor system to produce a biopolymer from methane gas that is applicable in outer space environments. This new methane fermentation process will expand and advance current gas delivery techniques to create affordable fermentation methods on Earth and beyond. Mango Materials is currently working to scale up and commercialize the production of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) from methane, but its scaled-up fermentation systems are typically tall and narrow to take advantage of hydrostatic pressure for the transfer of methane into solution. The proposed work represents a unique approach that could enable the production of biopolymer on Earth and also non-Earth environments, thus creating a closed-loop system for producing biopolymer products on-demand in outer space. The proposed design is a novel, membrane-based bioreactor that will enable bacterial growth and biopolymer production to occur in micro- or low-gravity environments by providing gases through membranes. Growth and biopolymer production using methane as a feedstock will be demonstrated at high efficiencies. The proposed work will also identify methods by which process wastes can be recycled back to minimize the required inputs. Finally, a thorough feasibility analysis will be conducted to evaluate the use of the process on a long-term space mission. Mango Materials will partner with Colorado School of Mines, where there is extensive experience with membrane bioreactors, to design and construct this system. More »

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