"As NASA leads the efforts to perform long-term space missions and exploration, the next generation of technologies that can effectively fulfill the unique technical and scientific challenges to reach out in space is to be developed.
Thus, it is critical to train and educate the new and diverse workforce of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs that our nation urgently needs. As a strategy to collaborate in achieving this goal and increasing the technology readiness level (TRL) of the current NASA related technology developed at the University of Puerto Rico, herein we present the MIRO-Center for Innovation, Research, and Education (CIREN).
This Center, with participants from University of Puerto Rico Campuses, Río Piedras, Mayagüez, and Cayey, and NASA collaborators, from Glenn Research Center, Ames Research Center, Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, Langley Research Center, and JPL, will be dedicated to the development of materials and devices for applications in life support systems, sensors, and energy storage.
CIREN is based upon the overarching philosophy of using research and education as a vehicle to achieve self-sustainability and to develop the future NASA STEM workforce.
Geared by the NASA Space Technology Roadmaps Areas (TA03, TA06, TA08, and TA10), CIREN will engage in the following interdisciplinary research and education groups (IREGs):
IREG 1: Education and Training in Nanotechnology:
CIREN will support the development and training of students, K-12 teachers, and faculty members in its respective NASA related research areas as mandated by NASA’s Strategic Plan. CIREN will provide our undergraduate and graduate students with the necessary tools to develop successful STEM careers.
The following activities have been identified:
a. Reduced gravity experimentation: Development of proposals to test students’ NASA related research projects under relevant space conditions.
b. Retention, evaluation and assessment: This effort will help retain our STEM students in order to fill the pipeline of the future diverse workforce of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, by strengthening the bridge between four-year and graduate institutions for students to continue advanced studies and develop awareness of NASA programs and opportunities.
c. Coursework development: Implementation of new advanced topics in Nanotechnology in microgravity. d. K-12 Outreach: Mentoring and visits to schools in order to engage students at the early stages as well as identify and train K-12 teachers. e. Entrepreneurship: Partnership with the Business Administration School to train and foster entrepreneurial skills in students and faculty researchers leading to the creation of small businesses.
IREG 2: Environmental Control and Life Support Systems:
This IREG will be working on innovation, research and education in air revitalization, water reclamation and purification, and resource recovery. In particular, robust adsorbent materials and composites for CO2 removal, reactive membranes for water purification, and microbial reactors will be developed.
IREG 3: Sensors for Human Health and Environmental Monitoring:
This IREG will develop nanomaterials that enable new robust and stable devices for physical and chemical sensing. The goal is to develop devices that remain operational in harsh conditions and with minimal power consumption.
IREG 4: Energy Conversion and Storage:
This IREG will be working in energy storage and conversion. This group will develop advanced materials for Li-S batteries.
The work and goals obtained for CIREN will leverage upon the numerous accomplishments and outcomes attained under previous NASA-URCs. It is the primary objective of CIREN to strengthen STEM education and nanotechnology technical areas outlined in this proposal together with the institutionalization and sustainability of the Center through the development of a high potential of nanotechnology commercialization by increasing the TRL."