They will conduct parabolic flights on a specially prepared plane that will allow them to have a range of about 15-20 seconds in weightless conditions. During this time slot, they will carry out experiments of ammonia oxidation with platinum electrocatalysts that might have applications in the field of water recovery and energy retrieval from the physiological waste, particularly urine, generated by astronauts
In these parabolic flights and particularly, on the crest of the parable, we can see how weightlessness affects the behaviour of our catalysts for the ammonia oxidation process. Flights last approximately two hours where we will perform around 50-60 parables. Initial plans are to conduct these flights for 3-4 days depending on weather conditions, as José Solla-Gullón explained.
In 2004, José Solla-Gullón and Francisco José Vidal published a series of articles that showed for the first time the dependence of the shape of a platinum nanoparticle and its operation in electrochemical reactions such as the ammonia oxidation process. This work aroused great interest in lecturer Carlos Cabrera, director of the Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials created by NASA and the University of Puerto Rico. Thus, "our ultimate goal has been to design a much more efficient catalyst with the idea of implementing it in flight and space stations to enable the treatment of liquid human waste for water recovery and energy production", they said.
"It is obviously a unique opportunity and great professional prestige to test in NASA the catalysts designed and developed at UA. Also, on a personal level, it will be a unique and enriching experience", experts in electrochemistry stated.
The envisaged period for the completion of the experiments at the NASA Johnson Space Center is from 12 to 22 November 2015.