Analysis of Process Gases and Trace Contaminants in Membrane-Aerated Gaseous Effluent Streams
Coutts, Janelle L.
Lunn, Griffin M.
Vega, Leticia M.
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In membrane-aerated biofilm reactors (MABRs), hollow fibers are used to supply oxygen to the biofilms and bulk fluid. A pressure and concentration gradient between the inner volume of the fibers and the reactor reservoir drives oxygen mass transport across the fibers toward the bulk solution, providing the fiber-adhered biofilm with oxygen. Conversely, bacterial metabolic gases from the bulk liquid, as well as from the biofilm, move opposite to the flow of oxygen, entering the hollow fiber and out of the reactor. Metabolic gases are excellent indicators of biofilm vitality, and can aid in microbial identification. Certain gases can be indicative of system perturbations and control anomalies, or potentially unwanted biological processes occurring within the reactor. In confined environments, such as those found during spaceflight, it is important to understand what compounds are being stripped from the reactor and potentially released into the crew cabin to determine the appropriateness or the requirement for additional mitigation factors. Reactor effluent gas analysis focused on samples provided from Kennedy Space Center’s sub-scale MABRs, as well as Johnson Space Center’s full-scale MABRs, using infrared spectroscopy and gas chromatography techniques. Process gases, such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, nitrogen dioxide, and nitrous oxide, were quantified to monitor reactor operations. Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME) GC-MS analysis was used to identify trace volatile compounds. Compounds of interest were subsequently quantified. Reactor supply air was examined to establish target compound baseline concentrations. Concentration levels were compared to average ISS concentration values and/or Spacecraft Maximum Allowable Concentration (SMAC) levels where appropriate. Based on a review of to-date results, current trace contaminant control systems (TCCS) currently on board the ISS should be able to handle the added load from bioreactor systems without the need for secondary mitigation.