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NASA Forward Osmosis Bag Transforms Urine Into Drinking Water


If you ever saw Bear Grylls and his gross pee-drinking desert adventure, then you know you shouldn’t drink that liquid (mostly when it’s hot like soup and stinks like nothing else on Earth). NASA has nevertheless discovered a solution to this “problem” by inventing a bag that filters anything, from pee to dirty water and transforms it into a drinkable liquid.

Of course, the blue bag they invented is suited best to space missions, whose urine-recycling systems currently eat power from the station’s batteries. It’s also intended for soldiers who can filter out dirt from any water and even recycle their own sweat in the harsh conditions of the battlefield.

“This could be a first step toward recapturing the humidity from our sweat, from our breath, even from our urine, and recycling it and making it drinkable,” said NASA project scientist and experiment leader Howard Levine.

NASA’s water filtering system uses forward osmosis through a sugary solution injected into a semi-permeable inner bag, which is nested inside an outer bag. The fluids that need to be filtered pass through the inner bag and its sugary solution, and then through the outer bag, thus getting cleaned. Four to six hours are needed to make a liter of water on Earth.

The bag hasn’t been tested in space, but NASA planned that one of the four astronauts on the space shuttle Atlantis will test it – they’ll probably choose him by using the shortest toothpick method.

If they’ll get to produce the forward-osmosis bag in industrial quantities, it may probably help the people of poor countries with few fresh water supplies a lot and will actually save lives, besides saving energy aboard the ISS.

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