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Review

Urine Treatment on the International Space Station: Current Practice and Novel Approaches

1
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), City Campus, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia
2
Aquaporin A/S and Aquaporin Space Alliance (ASA), 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark
3
Department of Chemical Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
4
Institute of Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), City Campus, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia
5
School of Urban and Environmental Engineering, Ulsan Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), UNIST-gil 50, Ulsan 689-798, Korea
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Membranes 2020, 10(11), 327; https://doi.org/10.3390/membranes10110327
Received: 25 September 2020 / Revised: 17 October 2020 / Accepted: 21 October 2020 / Published: 2 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Membranes for Water, Gas and Ion Separation)
A reliable, robust, and resilient water recovery system is of paramount importance on board the International Space Station (ISS). Such a system must be able to treat all sources of water, thereby reducing resupply costs and allowing for longer-term space missions. As such, technologies able to dewater urine in microgravity have been investigated by different space agencies. However, despite over 50 years of research and advancements on water extraction from human urine, the Urine Processing Assembly (UPA) and the Water Processor Assembly (WPA) now operating on the ISS still achieve suboptimal water recovery rates and require periodic consumables resupply. Additionally, urine brine from the treatment is collected for disposal and not yet reused. These factors, combined with the need for a life support system capable of tolerating even dormant periods of up to one year, make the research in this field ever more critical. As such, in the last decade, extensive research was conducted on the adaptation of existing or emerging technologies for the ISS context. In virtue of having a strong chemical resistance, small footprint, tuneable selectivity and versatility, novel membrane-based processes have been in focus for treating human urine. Their hybridisation with thermal and biological processes as well as the combination with new nanomaterials have been particularly investigated. This article critically reviews the UPA and WPA processes currently in operation on the ISS, summarising the research directions and needs, highlighted by major space agencies, necessary for allowing life support for missions outside the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Additionally, it reviews the technologies recently proposed to improve the performance of the system as well as new concepts to allow for the valorisation of the nutrients in urine or the brine after urine dewatering. View Full-Text
Keywords: human urine; resource recovery; international space station; urine fertiliser human urine; resource recovery; international space station; urine fertiliser
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MDPI and ACS Style

Volpin, F.; Badeti, U.; Wang, C.; Jiang, J.; Vogel, J.; Freguia, S.; Fam, D.; Cho, J.; Phuntsho, S.; Shon, H.K. Urine Treatment on the International Space Station: Current Practice and Novel Approaches. Membranes 2020, 10, 327. https://doi.org/10.3390/membranes10110327

AMA Style

Volpin F, Badeti U, Wang C, Jiang J, Vogel J, Freguia S, Fam D, Cho J, Phuntsho S, Shon HK. Urine Treatment on the International Space Station: Current Practice and Novel Approaches. Membranes. 2020; 10(11):327. https://doi.org/10.3390/membranes10110327

Chicago/Turabian Style

Volpin, Federico, Umakant Badeti, Chen Wang, Jiaxi Jiang, Jörg Vogel, Stefano Freguia, Dena Fam, Jaeweon Cho, Sherub Phuntsho, and Ho K. Shon. 2020. "Urine Treatment on the International Space Station: Current Practice and Novel Approaches" Membranes 10, no. 11: 327. https://doi.org/10.3390/membranes10110327

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