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Physicochemical Waste-Recycling Unit


Designing and Testing of the Environmently Friendly and Energy Efficient Installation for Physicochemical Processing of Wastes, Intended for the Closed Life Support System

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-OTH/Other/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Biophysics, Russia, Krasnoyarsk reg., Krasnoyarsk


  • European Space Agency, The Netherlands, Noordwijk\nNASA / Ames Research Center, USA, CA, Moffett Field

Project summary

Much has already been achieved in developing physicochemical methods for life support systems (LSS’s), making possible long-duration stays of humans in orbital space stations.

However, little has been done to develop physicochemical methods of waste processing to be incorporated into the biological human-rated LSS as an auxiliary technology. At the present time, though, the significance of the work in this field is growing rapidly because a number of countries are actively developing programs of space exploration, including colonization of the Moon and Mars. Environmental pollution also poses a serious problem. Zero-waste technologies of waste processing, using physicochemical methods, could be very useful in solving this problem. Thus, development of physicochemical methods of processing human wastes to obtain products that can be involved in biological cycles is important for both space and terrestrial applications.

The physical techniques of waste oxidation in the LSS that have been studied and used in space technologies are pided into thermal and physicochemical ones. The thermal technologies are subpided into dry and wet mineralization.

There are physicochemical techniques of waste treatment using ozone, hydroxyl radicals, and UV radiation as oxidizers. However, these techniques still remain to be developed and are only of theoretical interest now.

The difficulties listed above show that most of the currently available physicochemical methods of processing human wastes cannot easily be integrated into biological LSS’s.

The goal of this project is to construct an operating installation for environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and safe processing of wastes in the biological human-rated LSS.

The attainability of this goal is based on serious grounds. The researchers of the IBP SB RAS, participants of this project, have developed a physicochemical method of utilizing plant wastes and metabolites released by humans that is effective, environmentally friendly, and quite safe for the biological LSS and that yields end products subsequently involved in the internal mass exchange of the biological LSS. It is planned to use this method as an additional tool to treat wastes that cannot be biodegraded and to involve them into the internal mass exchange of the system. It has been shown in experimental investigations that the end products of the waste treatment using this method can be involved in the internal mass exchange of the system. Thus, considerable progress has been made in integrating the physicochemical method of waste processing, as an auxiliary process, into the biological LSS. The construction of hybrid LSS’s, which can combine biological and physicochemical methods of processing human wastes, has become feasible.

This scientific result, however, has been obtained in the research laboratory. Process conditions that would ensure the required rate, direction, and safety of waste utilization in the human-rated LSS cannot be determined on the laboratory model of the installation. The size of the model is not large enough to utilize wastes from the crew that must work in the LSS (minimum 2-3 members). The model contains fragile parts (made of quartz, glass), which cannot be used in the installation intended for the LSS. There is no unit for hydrogen peroxide generation in the model, and this is another reason why its structural parts cannot be just mechanically transferred into the LSS.

The following methodological and technical objectives are to be attained within the framework of the project:

  1. To construct a pilot installation with the proper technological parameters for waste processing in the human-rated biological LSS.
  2. To develop technological conditions of processing plant wastes and metabolites released by humans intended for long-duration (lasting for months) experiments in biological LSS’s.
  3. To test the pilot installation under practical operation conditions in the biological LSS (BIOS-3) intended for long-duration experiments with human subjects.
  4. To improve the construction of the installation and to prepare recommendations on using the installation under practical operation conditions in the human-rated LSS.

The expected outcome of the proposed investigations is the construction of the installation and the development of the related technologies for physicochemical waste processing intended for the biological LSS to be used both in space and on Earth. The commercial potential of the project is very high.

Scientific and technological achievements underlying this project have been reported at a number of international conferences, published extensively in reputed international journals, and communicated to prominent specialists in life support system research working for the leading space agencies in different countries of the world.

Collaborators in the work on the project are internationally recognized NASA and ESA experts. The collaboration will be realized via meetings, workshops, and consultations on the development of parameters of physicochemical waste processing, energy efficiency of electrochemical processes, the choice and realization of the criteria for integrating the projected installation into life support systems intended for different uses.

Thus, the conclusion is that the project meets ISTC goals and objectives.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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