Imagined by NASA
Houston, we have a ‘VOC’ problem!
The Airora story begins when NASA started planning for a manned mission to Mars. One major challenge, amongst many, was how to how to feed the crew when there’s no way to resupply them?
NASA’s answer was to grow fruit and vegetables within the space vehicle. But guess what, it is not that easy! (is it ever?)
Most plants, and particularly those that produce fruits and vegetables, emit ethylene gas. Ethylene, a typical volatile organic compound (VOC), is a naturally occurring plant hormone that encourages fruits and vegetables to ripen. In our gardens and orchards ethylene naturally dissipates into the atmosphere.
But, within a sealed spacecraft, ethylene doesn’t dissipate, it concentrates, causing vegetables and fruits to ripen too quickly, spoiling them before they can be consumed.
In short, NASA had a VOC problem.
Their challenge was complicated by the fact that the VOC gas molecules are so small that they would pass through even the most effective HEPA type filters. So, how to remove the ethylene, and by the way use little power, be maintenance free and produce no harmful side effects? – a challenge indeed!