Innovators at NASA’s Johnson Space Center have developed a filtration device to eliminate contaminants from water supplies. Originally developed to purify wastewater for reuse aboard the International Space Station, the innovation is applicable to numerous situations on Earth where there is a need to collect potable, medical-grade water from a contaminated water supply. The unique aspect of the technology is its use of acoustics rather than pressure to drive water through small-diameter carbon nanotubes. The invention requires less power than conventional filtration systems and is well-suited to a variety of water processing needs.
This water filtration innovation is an acoustically driven molecular sieve embedded with small-diameter carbon nanotubes. Turning the idea of filtration on its head, this technology pushes water away from contaminants, rather than removing contaminants from water.How it Works
Water enters the device and first contacts the filter matrix, which can be made of polymer, ceramic, or metallic compounds, depending on end-use requirements. Carbon nanotubes within the matrix allow only water molecules to pass through, leaving behind any larger molecules and contaminants.
The unique aspect of the technology is its use of acoustics to help drive water through the filter. An oscillator circuit attached to the filter matrix propagates acoustic vibration, further causing water molecules to de-bond and move through the filter. This use of acoustics also eliminates dependence on gravity (and thus filter orientation) to move water through the device. When water exiting the system diminishes to a pre-determined set point, a cleaning cycle is triggered to clear the sediment from the inlet of the filter, reestablishing the standard system flow rate. Unlike other filtration systems, flushing of the filter system is not required.Why it is Better
Existing water filtration technologies are generally plagued by limited performance, high energy consumption, and high costs. New filtration and treatment techniques designed to mitigate these problems generally depend on pressure to drive water through the filtration system. The combination of acoustics and small-diameter carbon nanotubes in this innovation make it an effective and efficient means of producing contaminant-free, clean water.Patents
Johnson Space Center is seeking patent protection for this technology.
This technology is being made available through JSC’s Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to consider licensing this Water Filtering Device technology (MSC-24180-1) for commercial applications. Supporting technologies are available as well: