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Recovery of resources for advanced life support space applications: effect of retention time on biodegradation of two crop residues in a fed-batch, continuous stirred tank reactorBioreactor retention time is a key process variable that will influence costs that are relevant to long distance space travel or long duration space habitation. However. little is known about the effects of this parameter on the microbiological treatment options that are being proposed for Advanced Life Support (ALS) systems. Two bioreactor studies were designed to examine this variable. In the first one, six retention times ranging from 1.3 to 21.3 days--were run in duplicate, 81 working-volume continuous stirred tank reactors (CSTR) that were fed ALS wheat residues. Ash-free dry weight loss, carbon mineralization, soluble TOC reduction, changes in fiber content (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin), bacterial numbers, and mineral recoveries were monitored. At short retention times--1.33 days--biodegradation was poor (total: 16-20%, cellulose - 12%, hemicellulose - 28%) but soluble TOC was decreased by 75-80% and recovery of major crop inorganic nutrients was adequate, except for phosphorus. A high proportion of the total bacteria (ca. 83%) was actively respiring. At the longest retention time tested, 21.3 days, biodegradation was good (total: 55-60%, cellulose ca. 70%, hemicellulose - ca. 55%) and soluble TOC was decreased by 80%. Recovery of major nutrients, except phosphorus, remained adequate. A very low proportion of total bacteria was actively respiring (ca. 16%). The second bioreactor study used potato residue to determine if even shorter retention times could be used (range 0.25-2.0 days). Although overall biodegradation deteriorated, the degradation of soluble TOC continued to be ca. 75%. We conclude that if the goal of ALS bioprocessing is maximal degradation of crop residues, including cellulose, then retention times of 10 days or longer will be needed. If the goal is to provide inorganic nutrients with the smallest volume/weight bioreactor possible, then a retention time of 1 day (or less) is sufficient.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Strayer, R. F.
(NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach FL United States)
Finger, B. W.
Alazraki, M. P.
Cook, K.
Garland, J. L.
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
September 1, 2002
Publication Information
Publication: Bioresource technology
Volume: 84
Issue: 2
ISSN: 0960-8524
Subject Category
Man/System Technology And Life Support
Distribution Limits
Non-NASA Center
NASA Discipline Life Support Systems

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