Producing Air Revitalization Sorbents from Spacecraft Waste Biomass



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2023 International Conference on Environmental Systems


Repurposing spacecraft waste biomass improves the logistics of waste disposal and the resupply of expendable activated carbon used in air revitalization ECLS. Several bioregenerative technologies (bioreactors, algal reactors, and crop production systems) produce C wastes that can be converted into activated carbon used for trace contaminant control. Activated carbon can be produced by a two-step process: 1) biochar formation using slow pyrolysis, and 2) activation with steam or with chemical agents. The activated carbon produced must have similar NH3 and dichloromethane removal capacities as the SOA impregnated activated C (i.e. Barnabey Sutcliffe Type 3032) used for trace contaminant control on ISS. The feasibility of methods for producing biochar and impregnated activated carbon from inedible plant biomass and algae is presented and discussed. The NH3 removal capacities of plant and algal biomass derived sorbents were compared to capacities of two commercial acid-treated sorbents. This proof-of-concept effort opens an avenue for repurposing spacecraft C wastes towards the production of sorbents used for ECLS air revitalization architectures.


Oscar Monje, Amentum, USA
Joshua Finn, Bionetics Corp., USA
Orlando Melendez, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA
ICES304: Physio-Chemical Life Support- Waste Management Systems- Technology and Process Development
The 52nd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Calgary, Canada, on 16 July 2023 through 20 July 2023.


activated carbon, waste biomass, biochar, trace contaminant control, ECLS, BLSS, spacecraft, Moon, Mars