June 25, 2020
Alyssa Sarvadi
Alyssa Sarvadi, a recent graduate of the College of Engineering, believes they have found a better way to clean the air aboard space ships. And, NASA agrees.

Alyssa Sarvadi, a recent graduate of the College of Engineering, believes they have found a better way to clean the air aboard space ships. And, NASA agrees. 

Sarvadi and their mentor, associate professor of engineering technology Huseyin Bostanci, are part of a 10-year-old NASA program that sponsors graduate students and their professors who show significant potential to contribute to the space agency’s goal of creating innovative new space technologies.

“NASA has road maps that researchers can use to see where the agency is headed in the next five to 10 years and what sort of technology they will need,” Sarvadi says. “It turns out that my research into air revitalization in microgravity environments is one of the many technologies in which NASA is interested.”

The NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities grant will provide up to $80,000 a year for two years for Sarvadi and Bostanci’s research into the design and development of a “microgravity vortex phase separator for liquid amine CO2 removal system.” As part of the grant, Sarvadi will begin graduate studies and continue researching at UNT in the fall. Sarvadi also will get to work at NASA facilities during the next two summers. The funding includes tuition, travel expenses, and a living stipend. This project also involves collaboration with Cable Kurwitz, an associate research engineer at Texas A&M University.

“Our vortex phase separator could be described as a type of CO2 scrubber,” Sarvadi says. “For astronauts in an enclosed area like a space craft or station, the carbon dioxide they exhale will quickly build up unless removed.”

Currently, the CO2 removal system used by NASA in the International Space Station involves a solid, granular sorbent-based system. This system is known to break down over the long term and uses too much energy in an environment where energy is limited. Sarvadi and Bostanci propose to design and build a system using non-gravity-dependent vortex phase separator that could potentially offer a reliable, high-throughput flow and energy efficient CO2 removal technology.

“The thought of building something that might actually be used in space is very exciting,” Sarvadi says. “But, the big dream is to actually work at NASA.”