Thanks to NASA bscience missions, researchers are finding that water may be more plentiful in space than we previously believed. The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission confirmed the presence of water on the Moon, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned images suggesting the flow of briny water in parts of the Martian landscape. Now that the Curiosity rover has landed on the Red Planet, it will search for the presence of water beneath the rust-colored soil.
Even so, space is practically a desert, where every drop of water is precious for the human explorers who brave that harsh environment. Complex systems onboard the International Space Station (ISS) collect and recycle moisture using powerful filtration technology developed by NASA and its partners—technology that transforms even urine and sweat into potable water for the ISS crewmembers. These systems are a model for those needed to make trips to distant destinations like Mars.
Even travelers here on Earth are benefiting from one such NASA-derived filtration innovation—part of a product that conveniently provides pure water for everyone from the international adventurer to the weekend warrior.
Mohssen Ghiassi, an entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience developing products for the travel industry, was seeking technology that would enable his latest idea: a water bottle that would utilize an advanced filtration system, one that could be taken around the world, designed specifically for travelers. In selecting an effective filtration media, Ghiassi ran up against the problem of flow rate; water passed through the filter too slowly to provide convenient purification for consumers on the go. Soon, however, Ghiassi’s research led him to a NASA-derived solution—NanoCeram.
NanoCeram originated at Sanford, Florida-based Argonide Corporation. In 2000, the company partnered with Johnson Space Center through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, with the goal of advancing the company’s unique filtration media for use in recycling water in space. With NASA support, Argonide developed the NanoCeram water purification technology, an innovation that won an R&D 100 Award and a place in the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame.
In 2006, Argonide exclusively licensed the filtration media to Ahlstrom Corporation, an international manufacturer that began mass producing the media for applications in countries around the world. Through Ahlstrom, Ghiassi found the key to his new product.
“We started purchasing from Ahlstrom and developing our product around this particular material because it really is the heart of the product,” says Ghiassi. He founded ÖKO, headquartered in Greenbrae, California, to market his spinoff technology.
The ÖKO water bottle employs two filters: a carbon filter and the NASA-derived media. The bottle itself is made of a thin-walled version of a material similar to that used in most food containers. By simply squeezing the bottle, the consumer forces water through the two-level filter system, resulting in instant purified water.