New Method Could Turn Astronaut Pee Into Drinking Water and Fuel

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Pee and other human waste (poop) are a problem in space. Processing astronaut urine for useable drinking water is nothing new on board the International Space Station, but a new process can recycle that urine into both water and energy—and it’s not just limited to space. We could all soon be generating pee-fuel.

A NASA-funded report in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering by Eduardo Nicolau, Carlos R. Cabrera, and their colleagues explains their new Urea Bioreactor Electrochemical System (UBE) that converts the urea in pee to ammonia, and then converts the ammonia to energy using a fuel cell using a process called forward osmosis.

Systems on board the International Space Station can already recycle urine into drinking water, but the additional energy created with the UBE system is an obvious advantage in space. It could also be a benefit here on Earth, concludes the research. Although, we’re sure drinking recycled pee water is going to be a lot harder to sell to the general public than it is to astronauts.

(via EurekAlert, image via Lee)

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Glen Tickle
Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.