(KCPW News) A water quality testing kit designed by a Utah researcher is now orbiting the earth on the International Space Station. The six-month trial run could help develop NASA’s first water quality test designed for space travel. University of Utah Professor Marc Porter says his kit could keep astronauts healthy on the longer missions NASA hopes to undertake in the coming decades.
“The idea really is, as missions get longer, the need for improved methods to maintain water quality has become an increasing priority. So what we’re doing is addressing an ongoing and in fact a future need for NASA, not only on the space station, but in other missions related to exploration of Mars and the return of humans to the moon,” he told KCPW.
The space station’s water supplies are currently treated with either iodine or silver. And if there is too much or too little of these chemicals, the water could make the astronauts sick.
Porter’s new test uses a specially designed disk that changes color depending on the level of iodine or silver in a water sample. And he says the possibility of developing the test for a broader commercial market is actually what led him to bring his research to Utah.
“What we’ve really begun to find, and what drew us here are really some of the pieces that had been missing in the past for us to really begin to push these things forward. And that includes not just development of the development of the technology, we’re beginning to look at with this application for NASA, how to begin to translate that to earthbound problems,” said Porter.
Porter says his research team has begun looking at forming a Utah-based company to move the technology into the marketplace. He says it could also be used to detect arsenic, a problem in Bangladesh and parts of the east coast.