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Beth Schmid

Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
March 3, 1994
(Phone: 202/358-1760)

Barbara Schwartz
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(Phone: 713/483-8647)

RELEASE: 94-33


A system for controlling microbial contamination in drinking
water, developed
jointly by a NASA engineer and two contractor employees, has been
selected as both
the NASA Invention of the Year and the NASA Commercial Invention
of the Year.

Richard L. Sauer of the Johnson Space Center, Houston, along with
inventors Gerald V. Colombo and Clifford D. Jolly of Umpqua
Research Co.,
Myrtle Creek, Ore., developed the Regenerable Biocide Delivery
Unit for use during
future long-term space missions.

This process is an extension of the microbial check valve
technology currently in
use on board the Space Shuttle. The technology also has
applications for long-term
space flight.

"The life of an iodinated resin bed for purifying water has been
until now," Sauer said. With the new system, the purifying resin
bed can be regener-
ated in flight using small amounts of elemental iodine. "For
space flights or space
station missions lasting more than 60 days, a substantial weight
savings can be
realized by carrying a small amount of elemental iodine to
regenerate the new system
where we previously had to fly a complete replacement unit," Sauer

"I believe there is a valuable commercial application for this
unit, particularly in
developing nations where the need for microbial control of water
supplies is very
critical," Sauer said. Microbial contamination is caused by
especially pathogenic bacterium, that can infiltrate a water
supply. "This is an effective alternative that doesn't have the
drawbacks of the hazardous gases affiliated with purification
systems that use chlorine or other traditional methods. This is a
totally different technology than that used in chlorination
systems," Sauer said.


Using elemental iodine to regenerate a resin bed eliminates the
dangers common
in the use of chlorine including overtreating the water supply and
the storage and use
of the hazardous chlorine gas. The system is scalable up to
municipal water treatment
size, creating commercial applications that also could be of
benefit during times of
flood or other natural disasters.

"A resin bed containing iodine can be stored safely for a long
time," Sauer said.
That extended shelf-life has the benefit of making the resin bed
available on short
notice in emergency situations, such as flooding or other natural
disasters that impact
the potable water supply.

According to Sauer, the development of this unit builds on
earlier research by Dr.
Jack Lambert and Dr. Louis Fina of Kansas State University and a
number of
technologies developed over the past 20 years.

Sauer is the Deputy Chief of the Biomedical Operations and
Research Branch
at the Johnson Space Center. A 27-year veteran of the center, his
primary efforts have
been directed at the biomedical aspects of manned spaceflight. He
also serves as NASA's expert for establishing spaceflight water
potability and monitoring standards, as well as directing the
sampling and analysis of Space Shuttle potable water samples.

He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor of
science degree
in 1962 and received a master of science degree from the
University of California in
1974. He is married to the former Chris Sherman.