Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Iowa State chemists help astronauts make sure their drinking water is clean

15.09.2011
Bob Lipert held up a syringe, attached a plastic cartridge and demonstrated how chemistry developed at Iowa State University is helping astronauts and cosmonauts make sure they have safe drinking water at the International Space Station.

Each cartridge contains a thin, one-centimeter disk that's loaded with chemistry, said Lipert, an associate scientist with Iowa State's Institute for Physical Research and Technology and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory.

Run a 10-milliliter water sample through a disk and it will change color in the presence of iodine, which NASA uses to inhibit the growth of microorganisms in the drinking water stored at the space station. The disk will turn from white to yellow and, as it's exposed to higher concentrations of iodine, it will turn to orange and finally to a rust color.

A handheld device - a diffuse reflectance spectrometer - can read the disk's color changes and precisely measure the concentration of molecular iodine, or I©ü. The whole process is called colorimetric solid phase extraction.

Starting in late September, Lipert said astronauts at the space station will use new developments and procedures that convert all forms of iodine in the water samples to molecular iodine. That will give astronauts a more precise reading of total iodine in their drinking water. Lipert said they'll know in real time whether there's too much, too little or just enough iodine in the water.

Disks loaded with different chemistry can also measure and record concentrations of silver, which the Russian Federal Space Agency uses as a biocide in its water supply at the space station. As silver concentrations increase, disks turn from yellow to purple.

Before Iowa State chemists helped develop the new tests, the only way to test the space station's drinking water was to send samples back to earth.

"We figured out the chemistry and put it into a form that can be used in space," Lipert said. "We also took lab techniques and simplified them as much as possible. And we developed procedures that can be used in the absence of gravity."

The result is a quick, accurate test that doesn't use up much drinking water or much astronaut time.

"What's neat about what we came up with is that all the chemistry we need to do can be accomplished in about one minute per sample using a little, 1-centimeter cartridge," Lipert said.

It took some work to develop the test's chemistry and procedures. The NASA-sponsored project began more than a decade ago under the direction of Marc Porter, a former Iowa State professor of chemistry and chemical and biological engineering who is now a USTAR Professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Lipert has worked on the project since 2000.

Other Iowa State researchers who have worked on the project include Jim Fritz, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Liberal Arts and Sciences; former post-doctoral researchers Matteo Arena and Neil Dias; and former graduate students April Hill, Daniel Gazda, John Nordling, Lisa Ponton and Cherry Shih. Lorraine Siperko, a research scientist at the University of Utah, has also worked on the project.

The university researchers have also collaborated with the Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group, a NASA subcontractor that helped develop and certify the water-testing hardware that has been deployed on the space station.

After a series of successful space tests in 2009 and '10, the researchers' water-testing equipment is now certified operational hardware and is part of the space station's environmental monitoring toolbox.

Lipert said the testing technology can also be a useful tool in many earthbound applications, including forensics tests for drugs, environmental tests for heavy metals and water quality tests for pesticides or herbicides.

"This is a very flexible platform," he said. "You just have to work out the chemistry for each substance you're analyzing."

Bob Lipert | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu/

Further reports about: NASA Science TV Space drinking water space station

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>