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NASA Glenn’s High-Voltage Water Purification Method


Laboratory: NASA Glenn Research Center

Technology: High-Voltage Water Purification

Opportunity: This technology is available for licensing.


Scientists at NASA's Glenn Research Center have discovered a unique water purification method that can be used for water recycling or point-of-use applications. Eliminating costly consumables like chemicals or ultraviolet lamps, and relying on only electrical energy, this technology uses plasma-generated reactive species to decompose organic contaminants, ranging from submicron particles to water soluble organics like glycol, ethanol, and industrial dyes. This technology has multiple applications, including the treatment of water for industrial, agricultural, healthcare, oil and gas extraction, sewer and storm water, livestock, and pharmaceutical uses.

Highly oxidizing water treatments, like ozonation and ultraviolet (UV)-ionization, have proven useful in removing organics from water, but they require high capital costs and large amounts of wasteful energy consumption. Glenn's approach to water purification uses high-voltage, nanosecond-pulsed, non-equilibrium plasma to treat water. The pulsed electrical discharge destroys micro-organisms in liquid, essentially sterilizing the water, without the use of toxic chemicals or filters. The plasma creates highly reactive OH radicals (e.g., hydroperoxyl, hydrogen peroxide, super oxide O2) that break down organic contaminants into carbon dioxide and water. The nano-pulses ensure that only enough energy is produced to destroy the contaminant without heating up the water, eliminating the need for cooling loops or the downtime that is associated with other processes (such as UV-ionization). NASA's water purification technology relies only on electricity and can be scaled to meet a wide range of needs, from small portable units that purify drinking water in disaster relief to million-gallons-per-day industrial applications. This technology is simple, straightforward and low cost, with virtually no consumables or byproducts. Furthermore, the plasma pulse technology can function as a stand-alone purification process or as an add-on to existing solutions as a polishing step.


•    Environmentally friendly: Does not introduce toxic chemicals into liquids
•    Readily available: Provides clean water on demand
•    Accessible: Accommodates large-volume, high-throughput applications and works with in-volume and in-line water feed systems
•    Simple: Operates without filters, which can often become fouled or punctured
•    Durable: Housed in a self-contained unit
•    Highly antiseptic: Attacks and destroys microbes


•    Wastewater treatment
•    Pharmaceutical and food and beverage water treatment
•    Pretreatment of contaminants
•    Point-of-use drinking water
•    Groundwater treatment
•    EPA Superfund site cleanup
•    Hydraulic fracturing water reuse

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