The Effects of Membrane Selection on Bioelectrochemical System Performance
Grossi, Elysse N.
Chao, Lily Y.
Hogan, John A,
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Reliable and efficient closed-loop resource recycling and recovery will be vital to the safety of crewmembers and the overall mission sustainability during long-duration space exploration. The use of bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) for space application has the potential to advance current and future life support systems via processing of wastes and subsequent production and recovery of valuable resources. BES technologies exploit the unique metabolic capabilities of specialized microorganisms to conduct extracellular electron transport to more efficiently treat wastes, and produce electricity and valuable products. The efficiency of a BES is highly dependent on the microorganisms utilized within the anode and/or cathode compartments, and the materials and configuration utilized for overall reactor design. BES operation relies heavily on the selectivity and performance of the membrane used to separate the anode and cathode compartments. Proton exchange membranes (PEMs) are commonly used in BESs to allow the anode and cathode compartments to operate separately and produce the desired byproducts, while also allowing the required flow of protons generated in the anode compartment to supply the cathode compartment. The incorporation of novel membrane components, such as forward osmosis (FO) membranes, may enhance BES reactor performance. BES reactors were assembled using three different types of membranes, to analyze changes in system efficiency during urine treatment. This paper discusses the differences in performance between PEMs, and FO membranes, and the effects of membrane selection on overall BES performance.