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Scientists Recycle Urine to Produce Fresh Drinking Water and Energy

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space-smell_1010554cNew renewable energy sources are being explored by scientists constantly. Inventions and discoveries flood the scientific journals, unfortunately often the experiments and findings do not materialize and remain only as a nicely formatted print.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, and one might well have just made it into the news. The new source of energy will be in space, but before don’t you think about space solar, which we have already told you about, it is definitely not that. The astronauts themselves will provide the source of energy, by simply going to the toilet and doing their thing.

A research team, funded by NASA, developed a new way of converting urine in both power and drinking water. According to the press release that appeared in the journal journal American Chemical Society Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (ASC), the technique would reduce the human waste that gets dumped into space by at least a half, while at the same time recycles it into much valuable essentials.

So, the process in more detail. The guys behind the study, Eduardo Nicolau, Carlos R. Cabrera and their colleagues, built on the existing method of osmosis, which removes contaminants from waste water and urine. The method was already implemented by NASA some time ago, but although it produces clean drinking water, it still has another byproduct- urea. Previously, the urea was what ended up in space, but now it could actually go into the newly developed Urea Bioreactor Electrochemical system (UBE). The system converts urea into ammonia, and then places it in a fuel cell, where it generates electricity.

The technology would be particularly useful to astronauts, as getting supplies of fresh water and energy, once in space, is particularly difficult. But the team behind the technology does see various applications on earth too, especially in wastewater treatment plants.

Image (c) NASA

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