Recycling spacecraft wastewater is essential for the success and sustainability of manned space missions. The proposed multisensory probe responds directly to a NASA need for monitoring calcium, pH, and conductivity in the ECLSS aboard the ISS, specifically in the Urine Processor Assembly (UPA). Successful development of a compact, low power, fully automated multisensor probe for multi-agent analysis will give NASA a powerful tool for wastewater monitoring. Real-time knowledge of wastewater chemistry will allow optimal recycling of wastewater aboard the ISS as well as for other manned space missions. This device will also have application as a monitor for water quality in all water streams aboard the ISS. Sensors capable of monitoring organic, inorganic, and trace contaminants in water, operational in microgravity, could make use of the same sensing technology and optoelectronic unit.
There is significant market potential for a low cost, compact, durable, accurate, and automated sensor to monitor water composition. State-of-the-art instrumentation for monitoring water quality includes instrumentation that is bulky and that requires trained personnel for operation. With its luminescent optical probe, our device will not only accurately perform in-line detection of calcium, pH, and conductivity, but will also be adaptable to monitor several other analytes important and/or relevant to water quality analysis. With the rising demand for smart water solutions in the water industry, a low cost, compact, and easy to use sensor technology will have significant market value. Additionally, there are a large number of potential commercial applications for a multisensor probe for calcium and pH, as well as for the individual sensors themselves, outside of the water quality and wastewater markets. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, which require real time monitors for accurately tracking calcium, pH, and/or other biomarkers for R&D purposes will be target markets. Biomedical monitoring may also be an attractive business opportunity; miniature probes for measuring and monitoring extracellular calcium have potential applications for monitoring the pathogenesis of osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.