The NASA Connection
Water… an increasingly precious commodity on Earth, has always been priceless in space; but “priceless” is a figure of speech—water in space does have a price, and it is an expensive one. A single gallon of water costs over $83,000 to launch just into low-Earth orbit. Despite recent NASA innovations that allow astronauts to derive potable water from their own sweat and urine and technologies that may one day extract water from buried glaciers on Mars, the availability of water in space is not likely to exceed its necessity. This means methods for recycling and purifying water remain a top concern for the Space Partnership Program. To further research regarding water recovery systems in outer space, NASA’s Johnson Space Center awarded a Phase-1 and a Phase-2 Small Business Innovation Research contract. The media in the BioGuard® was on center stage at the Space Center.
The BioGuard® is constructed of a unique filtration media which is revolutionizing water purification, and has the ability to provide methods for sanitizing recycled water anywhere on earth… and even in space. Working toward a basic tool for water recirculation during long-term space flight, the Phase-1 research was used to build on this proprietary technology. Phase-2 included virus filtration testing and the ability to absorb DNA and RNA.
The special ingredients of the BioGuard’s® nonwoven filtration media are nano-fibers made up of the mineral boehmite. The BioGuard® nano-fibers are 2 nanometers in diameter, and 200–300 nanometers in length (for comparison, a sheet of paper is roughly 100,000 nanometers thick), and are attached to micro-nano strands. The result looks like nano-size mascara brushes. With a surface area of as much as 500 square meters per gram. The fibers produce an electropositive charge when water flows through them. Many impurities carry a slight negative charge and are thus absorbed by the nano- fibers. A single layer of the BioGuard® media is capable of removing greater than 99.99 percent of 0.025 micron particles.
The BioGuard’s® nano-fibers are shown here capturing fumed silica particles of a similar size to viruses.
Some of the many impurities the BioGuard® removes are bacteria, viruses, cysts, organic debris, parasites, and dissolved and particulate metals such as iron and lead. Its large pore size relative to the particles it eliminates, means the filter achieves the Holy Grail of filtration medias… high flow with high dirt-holding capacity, and low pressure drop.
The BioGuard® is also available with infused powdered activated carbon, which is retained by the nano-fibers and enhances the media’s filtration abilities even further. This media has been certified for the purification of drinking water by NSF International, a nonprofit, nongovernmental group that certifies products for public health and safety. Future development will enable the BioGuard® to retain virtually any nano-powder desired, meaning it can be adapted to remove specific contaminants from water.
That kind of efficiency and versatility has the BioGuard® poised to be a major player in a number of burgeoning applications. In 2011, the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) began requiring municipalities to monitor their water for viruses. (Previously, only bacteria monitoring is required, when in reality viruses cause roughly 50 percent of waterborne gastrointestinal illnesses. The EPA has expressed satisfaction with this technology as a virus sample collector in such a monitoring capacity. Not only will this technology aid in virus testing at the municipal levels, it will serve as part of the municipal water treatment system itself. Currently ™ is in the development stages of large scale applications utilizing the BioGuard® technology. We call this the HYDRO® System. The HYDRO® System’s flow rates are unlimited, which will allow it to be scaled up to treat an entire municipality.