University of Alicante travels with NASA into space to recover water and produce energy from waste material
The equipment designed by the University of Puerto Rico includes electrocatalysts manufactured by the UA Institute of Electrochemistry
The electrocatalysts will be used to study the ammonia oxidation reaction, as part of a project related to the purification of urine in space
In the image, José Solla-Gullón and Francisco José Vidal Iglesias
Alicante, 28 September 2020
Nanomaterials prepared at the University of Alicante Institute of Electrochemistry are to be sent to NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) for use as electrocatalysts in an electrochemical device to study the ammonia oxidation reaction, as part of a project related to the purification of urine in space.
The nanomaterials have been designed at the Institute of Electrochemistry by PhD student Roberto Martínez, technician Francisco José Vidal Iglesias and researcher José Solla-Gullón and are made up of platinum (Pt) nanocubes supported by a carbonaceous matrix.
The electrochemical device will be sent to the International Space Station on Tuesday, 298 September 29, from Wallops Island, Maryland, near the coast of Virginia, where the NASA flight facility is located.
The electrocatalysts designed are the most relevant part of the electrochemical device, as explained by Solla-Gullón, and are the result of collaboration between the UA and the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus (UPRRP). According to Solla-Gullón, they are proud to be able to take the knowledge generated and developed at the UA to the International Space Station.
The initiative consists of the design, construction and evaluation of an electrochemical system, smaller than a shoebox, which NASA will incorporate into the astronauts' urine recycling system to generate water and, if possible, energy. This is an outstanding process for long missions, such as a trip to Mars or an extended stay on the Moon. Human urine, after certain processes, is transformed into ammonia which can be eliminated electrochemically with the electrocatalysts designed at the University of Alicante. Once it is placed on the ISS, the equipment will start to work automatically, carrying out the experiment by means of its two liquid pumps and two electrode systems.
The technology has been created by researcher Camila Morales Navas, from the UPRRP Faculty of Natural Sciences Graduate School of Chemistry and a disciple of PhD Carlos Cabrera, a scientist with whom the members of the Institute of Electrochemistry of the UA had already collaborated previously.