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March 3, 1994 (Phone: 202/358-1760) Barbara Schwartz Johnson Space Center, Houston (Phone: 713/483-8647) RELEASE: 94-33 RESEARCHER DEVELOPS 1993 INVENTION OF THE YEAR 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 coinventors 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 limited 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 said. "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 micro-organisms, 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. -more-2Using 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. -end-