International Space Station Smart Sample Concentrator for Microbial Monitoring of Potable Water



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49th International Conference on Environmental Systems


Potable water produced by the International Space Station (ISS) Water Processor Assembly requires routine microbial monitoring to ensure crew safety. Existing methods are culture-based and present significant operational challenges in micro-gravity, as well as a potential health risk in the enclosed ISS environment. Fortuitously, molecular detection technologies have come of age in the last two decades and now provide the potential for overcoming these challenges. However, despite the theoretical ability to detect single bacteria, small assay volumes preclude the use of molecular detection technologies for monitoring drinking water without a preconcentration step.

Molecular detection technologies routinely use only a few microliters of sample per reaction, therefor water samples must be concentrated by three orders of magnitude to approach the necessary detection limits. In response to this need, InnovaPrep LLC, of Drexel, MO has worked under Phase I and II NASA SBIR projects to develop the ISS Smart Sample Concentrator (iSSC). Development now continues under the Phase II-X Program with funding from the Advanced Exploration Systems’ Life Support Systems Project and the NASA SBIR program.

The iSSC is capable of processing one-liter water samples through a hollow fiber membrane filter concentration cell in less than ten minutes, capturing microorganisms in the fiber lumen. Following capture, the microorganisms are eluted using a novel Wet Foam Elution process in which a viscous, wet, carbonated foam is used to sweep the captured particles from the membrane surface and dispense them in a concentrated sample volume of less than 500 μL. A novel Capillary Flow Assisted Container then allows the concentrated liquid sample to be removed, while in the microgravity environment, and transferred to an assay tube for subsequent molecular detection. Physical and microbiological test results and the latest progress towards an ISS deployable instrument will be presented.


Alec Adolphson, InnovaPrep LLC, USA
Michael Hornback, InnovaPrep LLC, USA
Andy Page, InnovaPrep LLC, USA
Amy Zimmer-Faust, Southern California Water Research Project (SCCWRP), USA
John Griffith, Southern California Water Research Project (SCCWRP), USA
ICES205: Advanced Life Support Sensor and Control Technology
The 49th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 07 July 2019 through 11 July 2019.


Microbial Monitoring, Molecular Detection, Preconcentration, Biological Concentration, International Space Station, Smart Sample Concentrator, Wet Foam Elution, Capillary Flow Assisted Container