Innovators at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center have developed a miniaturized electrospray system that electrostatically charges and delivers liquids to grounded targets. The technology was developed as an alternative to existing options for in-space aeroponic food production applications.
The electrosprayer offers a new technology that may support the next generation of portable and/or of precise electrosprayers. Electrospraying (or electrostatic spraying) is a technique where droplets are charged to enhance surface adhesion and coverage efficiency. Developed for applying water to plants in space where gravimetric methods do not apply, this sprayer may also enable the delivery of a precise liquid for terrestrial uses without relying on pressurized air.
Commercially available electrosprayers are generally large, air-assisted devices that traverse up to 20 feet in the air and require large amounts of liquid and electrical power. This miniaturized electrosprayer system does not require compressed air, uses far less liquid, and concentrates the mist in an area less than 2-feet away.
The system only needs enough power to charge the droplets at the spray nozzle, so it may use small batteries (e.g., AAA batteries). It implements a unique nozzle design that imparts a high charge-to-mass ratio on the spray and increases coverage efficiency. Thus, the miniaturized electrosprayer can be placed inside a portable, handheld sprayer or be used as a stationary device for a wide range of uses, particularly when spraying expensive chemicals (e.g., plant nutrients) and when precise, efficient spraying is required (e.g., industrial coatings, disinfectants, etc.).
Potential applications include those where electrospray systems are currently employed like small-scale delivery of antimicrobial coatings (e.g., for COVID-19 disinfection), optical coatings, paint, nutrients, pesticides, water (e.g., for aeroponics), and more.