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Bioengineering Branch at Ames

Future human missions beyond low Earth orbit will require the development of technologies that minimize launch mass and resupply costs and provide a high degree of reliability and self-sufficiency.  The Bioengineering Branch is developing next generation technologies to enable humans to live beyond low Earth orbit for extended periods of time.  Research and technology development areas include atmosphere revitalization and trace contaminant control, water recovery, waste management, in situ resource utilization, improved production of cellulosic and algal biofuels feedstocks, engineered nanoscale self-assembling enzyme complexes, and systems engineering tools for technology gap identification, trade studies, and down selection.

about Bioengineering Branch at Ames

The Bioengineering Branch develops the next generation of life support systems to enable humans to live in space for extended periods of time with minimal resupply. Exploration Life Support research and technology development advances physicochemical processes for use in regenerative life support systems required for these future human missions.

Recently, the Branch has expanded its biological research utilizing advances in nanotechnology and information technology to develop innovative biotechnologies. NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration calls for the development of smaller, lighter, and ‘smarter’ scientific instruments and technologies compatible with space exploration. The necessary breakthroughs in this area may well be achieved in the revolutionary field of biologically inspired nanotechnology. This is technology on the scale of molecules, which holds the promise of creating devices smaller and more efficient than anything currently available. Current areas of research include protein-templated nanoparticle arrays, biosensors and enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose.

Research and Technology Development Areas

Atmosphere Revitalization

  • Development of advanced technologies to remove carbon dioxide and other contaminants from cabin atmospheres and to facilitate their transformation into safe and useful products.

Water Recovery

  • Development of technologies to significantly improve water recovery rates, increase reliability, and reduce consumables.

Waste Management

  • Development of technologies to reduce volume, recover water and other resources, and provide microbial and chemical safening and repurposing of waste materials.

Synthetic Biology

  • Engineer biological systems to provide critical resources for exploration, including food, life support, and materials.

Biofuel, Omega Project

  • Development of offshore photobioreactors for biofuel production while treating wastewater, sequestering carbon, and providing a platform for aquaculture.

Systems Engineering

  • Architecture analysis, modeling and simulation for the design and technology selection of safe, ultra reliable life support systems for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Analytical Chemistry Lab

  • Full service analytical chemistry lab supporting a wide variety of gas and liquid sample analysis needs.