News from the septic tank appears to be all the rage as of late, and it seems as though NASA is also on board. This Friday, their innovative design to recycle human urine into a “sugary drink” will accompany astronauts of the Atlantis space crew. Their “forward osmosis” technology has the potential to save NASA a ton of money and fuel because of the system’s lightweight design, but we think their invention could serve a multiplicity of uses well beyond the rocket ship.
The main problem with current urine filtering technology is that it uses machinery that requires a lot of electricity from the ship’s limited supply. This “water-conversion kit” makes use of a process called forward osmosis that pulls the urine through a semi-permeable membrane, and fully filters a full bag in just a couple of hours. Recycling urine in this way has a significant effect on a ship’s payload, and considering that a single pound adds $10,000 of cost, that slight weight difference can translate to serious savings.
The actual conversion process is fairly simple. To avoid the messiness of zero-gravity fluid transfers, waste liquid is drawn by syringe through a T-shaped valve. On the other end of the valve is the receptacle bag, and a switch is flipped to seamlessly transfer the waste liquid with the filled syringe. The final step is to let the bag do its magic, and 4-6 hours later, you have yourself a drink that (according to a daring Japanese cameraman) resembles Capri Sun.