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The Unseen Threat
We can't see them, but they're out there. At any minute, they could invade and strike with little warning. Whether on Earth or in space, illnesses caused by water-borne viruses and bacteria are no laughing matter.

These invaders can be inadvertently carried onboard space vehicles by their crews. That's why NASA enlisted the help of Argonide Corporation of Sanford, Fla., to determine if the company's NanoCeram® fibers might help to improve methods for purifying water aboard spacecraft.

Researcher works on NanoCeram (R) syringe filters in laboratory. Image at Left: The NanoCeram® syringe filters and laboratory filter discs are fast, accurate, and cost-effective tools to help eliminate bacteria and viruses from water. Image credit: Argonide Corporation

The company used these fibers to develop special filters capable of removing more than 99 percent of bacteria and viruses from water, while doing so more than 200 times faster than other methods. Building on this success, phase two of Argonide's project with NASA involves developing full-size cartridges capable of servicing an entire spacecraft crew.

These fibers are effective because they possess unusual bio-adhesive properties. There's an old saying that opposites attract, and in this case, it's true. The electropositive fibers attract and retain electronegative particles -- such as the bacteria and viruses -- in water-based solutions.

This is great news for space travelers and also holds great promise for our water purification needs on Earth.

Epidemics like hepatitis A and the Norwalk virus have been waterborne on numerous occasions, and recent studies have reported that viruses can actually contaminate groundwater supplies much deeper underground than bacteria.

Scientist works on filter technology in laboratory. Image at Rigth: Research into the use of these filters may provide help with epidemics, incidents of contaminated water supplies, disasters like the recent tsunami, and common everyday uses. Image credit: Argonide Corporation

Adding to the urgent need for improved filtration systems is the threat of terrorists contaminating water supplies and widespread disasters like the recent tsunami.

Developments under way at Argonide will also target everyday consumer uses for home and camping, as well as applications for the military and Third World countries. Anywhere that clean, disease-free water is needed, this emerging technology aims to target and eliminate the tiny, unseen invaders -- even in space.

For further information, visit:
Spinoff Online: Commercialized NASA Technology
NASA Connections to Everyday Life
Courtesy of the NASA Innovative Partnerships Program
Johnson Space Center and Spinoff On-Line
Cheryl L. Mansfield, NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center