In the event of a medical emergency, astronauts may require IV fluids to take drugs or rehydrate crewmembers that are unable to swallow. If it is to be used intravenously, water must be appropriately sterilized and mixed with the required drugs or electrolytes. IVGEN’s goal is to meet the requirement for IV fluid during exploration missions by constructing a filtration system that will generate fluid using in situ resources. In this effort, the fundamental requirement is that the filtration system consumes less mass and volume than would the equivalent amount of water the filtration system is able to produce.
Glenn was assigned the work to develop hardware such as this because of the center’s expertise in microgravity fluid physics. Glenn has partnered with ZIN Technologies to identify water purification and mixing technologies that will function in microgravity environments and will be easy to operate in emergency situations. The team then tested prototype systems in a laboratory environment, designed and tested flight-like hardware, and is currently finishing hardware that will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in March 2010 for testing in April 2010.
In addition to fluid purification, IVGEN also contains a subsystem to mix the purified fluid with appropriate pharmaceuticals. Testing performed in GRC’s reduced gravity drop towers and onboard reduced gravity aircraft demonstrated that microgravity mixing is best accomplished using a rotating magnetic stir bar, which is the technique implemented by IVGEN.
Using prototype and engineering hardware, the team produced several liters fluid that passed all tests required by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) for IV medications.