Nitrogen cycling in Bioregenerative Life Support Systems: Challenges for waste refinery and food production processes

Peter Clauwaert*, Maarten Muys, Abbas Alloul, Jolien De Paepe, Amanda Luther, Xiaoyan Sun, Chiara Ilgrande, Marlies E.R. Christiaens, Xiaona Hu, Dongdong Zhang, Ralph E.F. Lindeboom, Benedikt Sas, Korneel Rabaey, Nico Boon, Frederik Ronsse, Danny Geelen, Siegfried E. Vlaeminck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


In order to sustain human life in an isolated environment, an efficient conversion of wasted nutrients to food might become mandatory. This is particularly the case for space missions where resupply from earth or in-situ resource utilization is not possible or desirable. A combination of different technologies is needed to allow full recycling of e.g. nitrogenous compounds in space. In this review, an overview is given of the different essential processes and technologies that enable closure of the nitrogen cycle in Bioregenerative Life Support Systems (BLSS). Firstly, a set of biological and physicochemical refinery stages ensures efficient conversion of waste products into the building blocks, followed by the production of food with a range of biological methods. For each technology, bottlenecks are identified. Furthermore, challenges and outlooks are presented at the integrated system level. Space adaptation and integration deserve key attention to enable the recovery of nitrogen for the production of nutritional food in space, but also in closed loop systems on earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-98
Number of pages12
JournalProgress in Aerospace Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Food production
  • Organic waste
  • Resource recovery
  • Single cell protein
  • Space
  • Urine


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