comScore Astronauts Test Supercritical Water Waste Management Option | The Mary Sue

“Supercritical Water” That Can Start Fires Is Being Tested on the International Space Station

You'll never guess what they want to burn with it. Unless you guess, "poop." Then you're spot on.


Supercritical Water

Water puts out fire, right? Well, if you put it under enough heat and pressure, water goes all Super Saiyan and becomes “supercritical water.” Water’s ultimate form is capable of burning material it comes in contact with, and could prove useful for closed-system poop management in places like the ISS where it’s being tested.

You can get the full rundown on “supercritical water” from this latest video from [email protected]:

To get water to go “supercritical,” it needs to be put under extreme heat and pressure of 373° C and 217 atmospheres.  astronauts will subjecting it to those conditions on board the International Space Station, where it could prove to be a useful method of managing waste.

That is, once they figure out what to do about the salt problem. As water goes supercritical, any salts precipitate out. That can cause problems for the system containing the supercritical water — and that’s really something you’re going to want to keep contained, especially in space.

The experiments on board the ISS will be done with the goal of solving the salt problem, and the “supercritical water” will be given six test runs this year. Those experiments will be done using French equipment in the Japanese Experiment Module. Maybe that means Kirobo can watch and make adorable little robot comments about what’s going on. Please?

(via [email protected])

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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.