Doesn’t leak out in feces: Researchers envision an extreme circular economy
Now imagine using your tube to propel a spacecraft to and from Mars and shield you from cosmic radiation along the way.
For the return trip from Mars, the space agency had initially considered producing fuel from resources on the Red Planet, Sibka wrote in an email. But NASA is now studying whether reusing waste from the crew itself could help the astronauts, well, get off the ground.
The hydroshield could work well to block out radiation particles, said Peter Geda, a biologist in charge of NASA’s National Space Radiation Laboratory and a scientist at its host institution, Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.
In space, every ounce of cargo — including heavy but essential water — is precious. “If you have it anyway, can you use it for something?” He said. “In theory it should work.”
Many wastewater treatment plants already use a microbial-based process called anaerobic digestion to produce bio-methane, a sustainable fuel alternative, from wastewater. Cetecioglu Gurol and other researchers found that the organic compounds created during the biogas production process provide a good carbon source for bioplastic production. The goal now is to increase production efficiency. “We’re still small steps,” she said.
One type of bioplastic called polyhydroxybutyrate, or PHB, is produced naturally by some bacterial species as they feed on organic matter. Tests indicate that PHB can replace a variety of petroleum-based plastics and that, unlike them, it biodegrades rapidly under normal environmental conditions.
high brick load
Worldwide, treated sewage materials are still commonly burned or buried. But incineration of waste produces ash that, although reduced to a small fraction of the starting volume, is often dumped in landfills. Here, too, researchers are actively researching how to turn solids and ash into useful products.
The yoke factor may, of course, be a higher barrier to consumer products repurposed for other purposes such as bioplastic cups and ceramic plates. But the hostile space environment and the compound challenges of resource extraction on our planet are helping researchers to obtain a source of raw materials that can aid exploration and boost investments in sanitation infrastructure by turning waste streams into revenue. even better? This particular natural asset will never dry out.