This method eliminates the need for acid treatment of the plasma-treated biomass. (Image: NASA)

Researchers at Kennedy Space Center have developed a technology that generates plasma activated water in pH ranges that allow for the addition of nitrates and other nutrients to the water while maintaining a healthy pH for plants. A plasma torch is used to treat inedible biomass, generating ash containing nutrients useful for plant growth. The same plasma torch is also used to treat water, which results in the formation of nitric acid that lowers the pH of the water.

Adding the plasma generated ash to the plasma treated water can balance the pH of the water to make it suitable for plant growth while simultaneously adding nutrients recycled from the inedible biomass to further enhance plant development. Plasma treatment of water to high and low pH extremes can also be used for sanitation purposes, causing pH shock to undesired organisms.

The uniqueness of this process is the adjustability of the pH with one system. The same plasma system can be used to treat both the water and the biomass. Additionally, the technology can be used as an on-demand, point-of-use method for producing nitric acid.

This method eliminates the need for acid treatment of the plasma-treated biomass. For cleaning applications, water can be treated with plasma to either high or low pH extremes for shock sanitation treatment.

The system requires a high voltage power supply and a plasma torch. The torch requires a tube for gas transportation, an electrode inside the tube, and an electrode outside the tube. Air can be used for both treatments. The plasma system can be optimized to condense the system into a lunchbox sized package to generate the treated water and ash.

The technology has several potential applications including vertical farming, hydroponics, greenhouses, irrigation, in-situ generation of cleaning agents, and space-based agriculture.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call at 202-358-7432 to initiate licensing discussions. For more information, visit here .