Internal Active Thermal Control System (IATCS) Sodium Bicarbonate/Carbonate Buffer in an Open Aqueous Carbon Dioxide System and Corollary Electrochemical/Chemical Reactions Relative to System pH Changes



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44th International Conference on Environmental Systems


The International Space Station (ISS) Internal Active Thermal Control System (IATCS) experienced a number of chemical changes driven by system absorption of CO2 which altered the coolant’s pH. The natural effects of the decrease in pH from approximately 9.2 to less than 8.4 had immediate consequences on system corrosion rates and corrosion product interactions with specified coolant constituents. The alkalinity of the system was increased through the development and implementation of a carbonate/bicarbonate buffer that would increase coolant pH to 9.0 – 10.0 and maintain pH above 9.0 in the presence of ISS cabin concentrations of CO2 up to twenty times higher than ground concentrations. This paper defines how a carbonate/bicarbonate buffer works in an open carbon dioxide system and summarizes the analyses performed on the buffer for safe and effective application in the on-orbit system. The importance of the relationship between the cabin environment and the IATCS is demonstrated as the dominant factor in understanding the system chemistry and pH trends before and after addition of the carbonate/bicarbonate buffer. The paper also documents the corollary electrochemical and chemical reactions the system has experienced and the rationale for remediation of these effects with the addition of the carbonate/bicarbonate buffer.


Tucson, Arizona
The 44th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Tuscon, Arizona, USA on 13 July 2014 through 17 July 2014.
Thomas W. Stegman, MEI Technologies, USA
Mark E. Wilson, The Boeing Company, USA
Brad Glasscock, The Boeing Company, USA
Mike Holt, NASA, Johnson Space Center, USA