Demonstration of a Low Resource Lyophilizer Prototype for Spaceflight Applications



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49th International Conference on Environmental Systems


A way to investigate the possibility of extraterrestrial life on Jupiter’s moon Europa is to search for amino acids inside the surface ice using a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer. Any potential amino acids inside the ice sample must be concentrated in order to perform an NMR analysis given today’s state-of-the-art NMR sensitivity. One way to increase the concentration without damaging the sample is to remove the water through sublimation inside a lyophilizer, which is accomplished by reducing the temperature and pressure inside the lyophilizer below the triple point of water (0.01 °C/ 6 hPa). Conventional lyophilizers are typically equipped with a power-intensive vacuum pump and cooling unit. To reduce the consumed resources for a lander-mission on Europa’s surface, a spaceflight lyophilizer is proposed to use the in-situ available resources of space vacuum and cold temperatures, in place of a pump and cooling unit. The feasibility of such a low resource lyophilizer was investigated and demonstrated using a prototype tested under relevant and realistic environmental conditions. During the testing, an operational end-of-lyophilisation criteria was derived as well as the influences of temperature, pressure, and freezing rate on sublimation. The proposed low resource lyophilizer is scaled to freeze dry a 5 ml sample under 5 hours with a power consumption below 5 Watts.


Philipp Hartmüller, Technical University of Munich, Germany
Alexander Hoehn, BioServe Space Technologies University of Colorado Boulder, USA
Bruce Hammer, University of Minnesota, USA
ICES102: Thermal Control for Planetary and Small Body Surface Missions
The 49th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 07 July 2019 through 11 July 2019.


lyophilisation, freeze-drying, low resource, exploration