As manned space missions are foreseen to be extend with limited earth resupply available, the ECLSS will need to become more durable to support closed loop living. At present, waste water recovery and treatment systems within the ECLSS recover ~85% of the water with marked decrease in lifetime and process efficiency due to osmosis membrane durability and fouling issues. The proposed bio-electrochemical system consisting of a bioreactor and ammonia electrolyzer will eliminate many of the contaminants that commonly foul the RO system and produce a more sustainable wastewater treatment and water recovery system. This system offers a practical addition to the existing process stream and could reduce replacement of the osmotic components.
The specific application as described by the program solicitation topic is for manned space system, but the proposed development would be valuable in a broad range of other settings as well. Some potential installation/sales targets include waste water treatment facilities, naval warships, and military field hospitals. In 2015 United Nations reported that more than 40% of global population is affected by water scarcity and this number continues to increase. For this reason water recovery from waste water is essential to human race. The proposed innovation thus has the potential to be useful in regions where water is scarce commodity or water recovery would be invaluable.