A Norwegian-German collaboration has developed a new, rapid monitoring system for checking indoor air quality in the space station, 400 km above the Earth.
Trontheim/Norway — “Astronauts must receive early warnings if harmful or unpleasant gases get mixed in with their breathing air”, says Senior Scientist Atle Honne at Sintef. “Because in space you can’t just open a window to ventilate the room.” Honne is one of the architects behind a gas measurement system called Anita, which was tested on the International Space Station (ISS) as an air monitoring system in 2007 and 2008.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has now commissioned a new, more compact and advanced version of the system to be demonstrated and used on the ISS. The plan is to eventually put the technology to use on future manned expeditions further out in space.
The instrument itself was developed OHB System AG in Germany, while Atle Honne and his co-workers at Sintef developed the method the system uses to interpret the data it collects.
The Anita technology relies on optical measurements to identify gases. It can detect and distinguish between different gases by measuring how much infrared radiation they absorb. The new version of the sensor to be deployed on the ISS will complement existing monitoring systems, which use gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.
Honne points out that there are also many potential applications for the high-flying Anita technology here on Earth. The system can be used to check air quality in everything from submarines and aeroplanes to diving systems and laboratories. He says the systems is ideally suited to monitoring industrial processes and environmental gas emissions, including waste gases from the agricultural sector.