As humanity reaches ever closing to living among the stars, we’re still desperately trying to figure out some of the biggest issues with long term space travel. Without anywhere to resupply in the galaxy besides Earth, interstellar journeys have been greatly hindered by the lives of the passengers aboard a craft. Soon, though, those same passengers may prove to be exactly what’s needed to make the leap, all through their own pee.
Scientists Synthesizing Materials Needed For Space Travel Using Human Urine and Carbon Dioxide
Scientists at Clemson University have just announced at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society about new research they’ve conducted in synthesizing plastics from a person’s urine and exhaled carbon dioxide. While not a solution to issues like fuel, this kind of breakthrough could greatly increase the lifespan of spacecrafts mid-voyage and ensure that astronauts always have the tools on hand to fix a problem when it arises.
The research team, led by Mark Blenner, Ph.D., have high hopes for their findings. Just recently, members of the International Space Station already used recycled pee and other bodily fluids as a way to save on water. Fecal matter was already on the list of ingredients for the much-needed plastic necessary for 3D printing. Even beyond that, though, Blenner’s research hopes to create compounds like polyester from the materials found in urine, potentially even finding a way to create a food source like omega-3 fatty acids, as well.
This is all made possible with the use of a special kind of engineered yeast called Yarrowia lipolytica. This yeast only grows in environments high in carbon and nitrogen, which humans are adept at producing naturally through their bodily functions. While only small amounts of usable materials have been produced so far, scientists are already figuring out ways to increase efficiency.
Though it is still early in the process, Blenner and his team will likely revolutionize space travel with their discovery. Giving astronauts the ability to synthesize plastics and food sources from their own bodily excrement will improve the longevity of space missions exponentially, possibly being the key to colonizing other planets some day.