To Jim Bridenstine NASA Administrator 300 East Street SW Washington DC 20024-3210 July 15th, 2016 From Viswajeeet Balaji
Team Head Johnson Space Center Houston, TX 77058
Sub: Request for continued funding for water filtration research project
Dear Administrator, I write this letter concerning the funding of NASA sponsored nanofiber water filtration research project. As the research team head, I must highlight the potential and importance of this project and showcase the research to you. I request your valuable time to read this paper and approve continued funding.
Introduction Water supply shortage is a global challenge faced by many countries. Many political experts predict that the third world war would be waged over water resources. Though the world is covered with 70% of water, people still face water shortage issues since 70% of water is saline and needs to be purified for human consumption (Perlman & USGS, n.d.). There are a lot of freshwater resources one could find, but all of them need to be purified since they could be contaminated by germs and pollution.
Since humans need to keep themselves hydrated to stay healthy, water filtration is widely used and must-have technology. Background Motivation Our current water purification systems are very energy intensive and consume a lot of power before giving out a glass of clean water. Though our current systems purify water to a very high level, the energy expenditure is not worth it. Reverse osmosis is the latest technology used in every household filter, but this technology is only 25% efficient. These purifiers take in 4 gallons of water and produce only 1 gallon of fresh and pure drinking water.
The world is in dire need of a simple and efficient water filtration system. This is the background philosophy of the NASA research project on nanofiber water filtration called Nano-cream.
Before moving into the technical details, a historical account of the product is given below. The NASA technology of Nano-cream offers a fascinating alternative to our current water purification systems and could exponentially reduce the energy expenditure of a household. Nano-cream was created by Florida-based company Argonide. The company Argonide partnered with NASA in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and successfully used nanofibers to filter the water. They won R&D Top 100 award and earned their place in the Space Technology Hall of fame. Nano-cream is used by NASA on space missions, where every drop of liquid water is crucial for survival. This technology is currently used in the International Space Station, where urine and sweat are purified into clean germ-free water and are used by astronauts for consumption. This is a highly efficient system and has a lot of large-scale applications for real-world situations. With this in mind, Argonide licensed the manufacturing rights to the Ahlstrom Corporation and they managed to mass produce these specialty water filtration products for several countries, which provides safe and clean water to people all over the world. Many countries in Africa where electricity is not prevalent, can use these filters to filter water since these do not require any energy input. Establishment of OKO Corporation This technology is used in one of the NASA spinoffs where a water bottle’s cap is equipped with this patented nanofiber filter and this bottle can be used to purify water anywhere and anytime (C.Palmer & M.Palmer, 1999). The transfer of technology was enabled by Mohssen Ghiassi, a product developer for the travel industry. Ghiassi wanted travelers to have an advanced water filtration system that they could carry and use everywhere.
Though he had some initial success with a few filters, the filter flow rate in them was too slow to be used. Further research pointed Ghiassi towards the NASA-Argonide technology of Nano-Cream through the manufacturer Ahlstrom and this led to the establishment of the OKO Corporation which made potable and mobile water filtration bottles. Filtration Technology The filtration technology is powerful and follows the WHO water guidelines as presented in Edition, F. (2011) perfectly. The cap of the bottle has a powerful filter that can remove odor and chlorine from water. Apart from that, the filter is also capable of removing bacteria and viruses from the water because of its unique bio-adhesivity feature. This feature is due to the ability of the nano-particles to induce a negative charge and this attracts all the viruses, bacteria, and metal contaminants from the water. In addition to the media’s two-micron-wide pores, traps particles as the water is forced through. In a layer less than a millimeter thick, a bacterium would have to navigate through 400 pores and through silver ions in the media that kill microbes. This water bottle has become a favorite of tourists all around the world since they are free from the hassle of finding a reliable water source and purchasing cartons of water. These bottles are made from high-quality lightweight BPA-free and phthalate-free plastic which is approved by the FDA. The bottle filter contains two main parts: a carbon filter, to remove active carbon particles in the water, and a NASA-made special filter medium. This two-filter water filter removes most of the harmful substances from water, including disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli. This bottle can be used effectively in over 120 countries to purify water.
The filter used in bottles is also used made on a larger scale and is used by campers to get a larger amount of clean water from streams and store them in dedicated tanks. These bottles also come with flashlights as additional features. In the next section, we look at the environmental impacts of the bottle and compare the water quality of OKO bottles to bottled water. Environmental Impact In a report by Business Insider, Brodwin (2015) writes that the average American drinks more bottled water than milk or beer, and thus a person spends an average of $300 more on bottled water. Interestingly a recent FDA report stated that almost half of the bottled water was tap water, and research also suggests that in America tap water and bottled water have no significant difference in chemical composition. A recent poll found that about 63% of Americans worried about the consumption of tap water. If these people had access to these nanotech filter bottles, they need not need to invest in any bottled water and can drink water with confidence from any public water source. By discouraging people to buy bottled water, we can reduce the plastic pollution generated by these factories. It is a common misconception that all plastic bottles are recycled, but unfortunately, only one out of six bottles come are recycled. With the help of the OKO bottles, only the filter needs to be changed after use and the bottle can be reused for up to 20 years. This has an impact on the carbon footprint of the planet. With this power of instant water filtering, one would assume that this product would be an expensive investment, but it turns out that this bottle is within the budget of any individual. This bottle costs only $30 and the replacement filter cost only $17.5. This is a very economical price for a product offering the power of portable filtering. Current Drawbacks The water filtering bottles are in the market for around 6 years now and upon reviewing user feedback the sellers reported that the product was a resounding success but there were some common complaints from all users.
The most common complaint was that of water leaking through the sides due to the filters getting clogged, followed by the issue that the O-Ring of the bottle breaks and gives away after some use due to wear and tear. Also, the water filters are only effective for the first 100 refills and the filter lives depend on the quality of the water in the bottle. Conclusion To overcome all these drawbacks and redesign the product to be better suited for common travel and household purposes, I fervently request continued funding for this project. An invention like this is bound to influence every human on this planet since it is the right of every human to have access to clean and safe drinking water. Countries such as India and China are experiencing severe water shortages due to heavy population pressure and this product could be a lifesaver. As scientists at NASA, we must solve global problems with science and make sure our technological explorations and scientific studies positively impact every human being. This is our chance to bring the water filtration technology from heaven and utilize it to solve the water shortage problems in our world. With this in mind, I request you provide continued funding for this research project. Viswajeeet Balaji