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Analysis of Water Recovery Rate from the Heat Melt CompactorHuman space missions generate trash with a substantial amount of plastic (20% or greater by mass). The trash also contains water trapped in food residue and paper products and other trash items. The Heat Melt Compactor (HMC) under development by NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) compresses the waste, dries it to recover water and melts the plastic to encapsulate the compressed trash. The resulting waste disk or puck represents an approximately ten-fold reduction in the volume of the initial trash loaded into the HMC. In the current design concept being pursued, the trash is compressed by a piston after it is loaded into the trash chamber. The piston face, the side walls of the waste processing chamber and the end surface in contact with the waste can be heated to evaporate the water and to melt the plastic. Water is recovered by the HMC in two phases. The first is a pre-process compaction without heat or with the heaters initially turned on but before the waste heats up. Tests have shown that during this step some liquid water may be expelled from the chamber. This water is believed to be free water (i.e., not bound with or absorbed in other waste constituents) that is present in the trash. This phase is herein termed Phase A of the water recovery process. During HMC operations, it is desired that liquid water recovery in Phase A be eliminated or minimized so that water-vapor processing equipment (e.g., condensers) downstream of the HMC are not fouled by liquid water and its constituents (i.e., suspended or dissolved matter) exiting the HMC. The primary water recovery process takes place next where the trash is further compacted while the heated surfaces reach their set temperatures for this step. This step will be referred to herein as Phase B of the water recovery process. During this step the waste chamber may be exposed to different selected pressures such as ambient, low pressure (e.g., 0.2 atm), or vacuum. The objective for this step is to remove both bound and any remaining free water in the trash by evaporation. The temperature settings of the heated surfaces are usually kept above the saturation temperature of water but below the melting temperature of the plastic in the waste during this step to avoid any encapsulation of wet trash which would reduce the amount of recovered water by blocking the vapor escape. In this paper, we analyze the water recovery rate during Phase B where the trash is heated and water leaves the waste chamber as vapor, for operation of the HMC in reduced gravity. We pursue a quasi-one-dimensional model with and without sidewall heating to determine the water recovery rate and the trash drying time. The influences of the trash thermal properties, the amount of water loading, and the distribution of the water in the trash on the water recovery rates are determined.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Balasubramaniam, R.
(National Center for Space Exploration Research on Fluids and Combustion Cleveland, OH, United States)
Hegde, U.
(National Center for Space Exploration Research on Fluids and Combustion Cleveland, OH, United States)
Gokoglu, S.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 9, 2014
Publication Date
September 1, 2013
Subject Category
Mechanical Engineering
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2013-3393
Meeting Information
International Conference on Environmental Systems(Vail, CO)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 203950.04.01.04
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Heat Melt Compactor
Space Processing
Water Recovery

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