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Removing Pathogens Using Nano-Ceramic-Fiber Filters

Filters remove greater than 99.9999 percent of viruses and bacteria from wastewater.

A nano-aluminum-oxide fiber of only 2 nanometers in diameter was used to develop a ceramic-fiber filter. The fibers are electropositive and, when formulated into a filter material (NanoCeram®), would attract electronegative particles such as bacteria and viruses. The ability to detect and then remove viruses as well as bacteria is of concern in space cabins since they may be carried onboard by space crews. Moreover, an improved filter was desired that would polish the effluent from condensed moisture and wastewater, producing potable drinking water. A laboratory-size filter was developed that was capable of removing greater than 99.9999 percent of bacteria and virus. Such a removal was achieved at flow rates hundreds of times greater than those through ultraporous membranes that remove particles by sieving. Because the pore size of the new filter was rather large as compared to ultraporous membranes, it was found to be more resistant to clogging.

Additionally, a full-size cartridge is being developed that is capable of serving a full space crew. During this on-going effort, research demonstrated that the filter media was a very efficient adsorbent for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), and endotoxins. Since the adsorption is based on the charge of the macromolecules, there is also a potential for separating proteins and other particulates on the basis of their charge differences. The separation of specific proteins is a major new thrust of biotechnology.

The principal application of NanoCeram® filters is based on their ability to remove viruses from water. The removal of more than 99.9999 percent of viruses was achieved by a NanoCeram® polishing filter added to the effluent of an existing filtration device. NanoCeram® is commercially available in laboratorysize filter discs and in the form of a syringe filter. The unique characteristic of the filter can be demonstrated by its ability to remove particulate dyes such as Metanyl yellow. Its particle size is only 2 nanometers, about the size of a DNA molecule, yet the NanoCeram® syringe filter is capable of retaining the dyes as the fluid is passed through the syringe, without much backpressure. Endotoxins, which are contaminants that are part of the residue of destroyed bacteria, can cause toxic shock and are therefore of major concern in pharmaceutical products. The NanoCeram® syringe filter is capable of removing greater than 99.96 percent of the endotoxins.

This work was done by Frederick Tepper and Leonid Kaledin of Argonide Corp. for Johnson Space Center. In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:
Argonide Corporation
291 Power Court
Sanford, FL 32771

Refer to MSC-23478, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.