NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H₂O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Algae Water Purification) - 09.27.17

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Algae are single-celled organisms that live in water and can produce their own food through photosynthesis, as well as remove impurities from water. NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H2O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Water Purification) studies whether a species of algae can remove a chemical fertilizer from water in microgravity. Results improve efforts to use algae as a water purifier for future space missions.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Melanie Tran, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
Valley Christian High School , Valley Christian High School, San Jose, CA, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Steve Borgens, Valley Christian High School, San Jose, CA, United States

Developer(s)
Valley Christian High School , San Jose , CA, United States
NanoRacks, LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2016 - September 2016

Expeditions Assigned
47/48

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H2O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Water Purification) requires research to discover various ways of purifying water or other solutions using Chlorella Vulgaris algae. It also provides information on the different characteristics and properties of the algae.
  • This experiment accomplishes the understanding of how efficient and fast algae purifies dissolved ammonium dihydrogen phosphate in a microgravity environment, as well as other alternative sources for purification.
  • The impact of this research is to understand the rate and efficiency of algae’s ability to purify wastewater in space. The success of this project contributes to scientist’s research on discovering alternate ways of purification and the preservation of resources.

Description

Algae has applications exemplified through its use in fertilizers, bioreactors that reduce CO2 emissions, biodiesel fuel, and, most importantly, water purification. It can remove impurities such as nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, and ammonium through pinocytosis and receptor­mediated endocytosis. For the NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H2O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Water Purification) investigation the algae is lyophilized into a powder form to preserve it during the time between assembly of the microlab and the actual activation of the experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS). After reaching the station, the algae are rehydrated with distilled/deionized water containing a nutrient broth. The algae are fed with this broth only once before the actual experimentation solution is introduced. Once the algae are activated, aqueous ammonium phosphate monobasic (NH4H2PO4) is pumped into the growth chamber. This solution, in addition to the carbon dioxide (CO2) the algae receives from the air, provides the five basic elements to sustain life. To retrieve data, a light sensor detects how much light, provided by a light-emitting diode (LED) situated behind the chamber, permeates the chamber, as the opacity of the algae indicates its growth. Photos are taken routinely to observe the algae growth and its function in the water purification system, using the light provided by the LED behind the chamber. Other LEDs are programmed to simulate sunlight, with rounds to simulate both day and night. When the last time period has finished, the supply of nutrients and water are cut off. The hypothesis is that the Chlorella vulgaris grows during the project and purifies the water, though at a rate slower than that of algae grown under the same conditions on earth. This is based on previous research showing the reduction of the productivity of endocytosis in short­term microgravity experiments.

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Applications

Space Applications
Crews traveling to the moon, asteroids, Mars and other distant destinations will have limited water supplies, which will require them to recycle and reuse water for drinking and growing plants. This investigation studies whether a species of algae can remove dissolved fertilizer from water in microgravity. Using algae to purify water would reduce the cost and complexity of water-reclamation systems for future space missions.

Earth Applications
Students at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, designed and built the experiment as part of the school’s goal to promote science, math and engineering. Industry mentors and teachers guided the students in designing, prototyping and finalizing the experiment to be flown on the International Space Station, fostering a unique connection to the space program.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

NanoRacks Module­22 is completely autonomous and only requires installation and removal. During actual operation, photographic data is sent to the investigators to track the progress of the experiment. The first three days have the most data transmitted (about 16 VGA quality photographs along with environmental data (humidity and temperature). Thereafter, transmission is limited to 1 VGA photo and environmental data per day for the duration of the flight. The payload chamber needs to be returned to the researchers so its contents can be examined under a microscope.
 
Crew interaction with Module­22 is limited to transferring the NanoRacks locker insert from the launch vehicle to the ISS, installation and activation of the NanoRacks Frames into the EXPRESS Rack Locker, cleaning of the air inlet filter (as necessary), and data retrieval (as needed) during the mission.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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Imagery

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Top and left side view of chamber for the NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H2O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Water Purification) investigation. Image courtesy of Valley Christian High School.

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Right and side view of chamber for the NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H2O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Water Purification) investigation. Image courtesy of Valley Christian High School.

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Conclusions from algae tests run for the NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H2O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Water Purification) investigation. Image courtesy of Valley Christian High School.

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Electrical schematic NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-The Effect of Microgravity on Chlorella Vulgaris H2O Purification (NanoRacks-VCHS-Water Purification) investigation. Image courtesy of Valley Christian High School.

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