Drinking your own urine may not be a very appealing idea but things could be different if you're in a place where there is a shortage of water like Mars. A professor from Ohio University and her team developed pee powered technology that may give astronauts who will explore planet Mars in the future access to clean water extracted from their own urine.
OU's Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research (CEER) director Gerardine Botte realized that it was possible to extract hydrogen and water from urine while she was working on a fuel-cell technology 12 years ago. Later, she developed and trademarked Greenbox, a metal box of tubes that can convert urine into water and energy, a process dubbed pee to power.
Two years ago, Greenbox was purchased by the U .S. Department of Defense for a wastewater treatment project. It appears though that Botte's project would not be limited for use on Earth because her technology, Urine Greenbox, was selected as one of the 10 finalists in a Mars One competition that would send one technology to the Red Planet out of 35 entries from other universities worldwide.
If Botte's project is selected, human urine from Earth will be brought along with her technology during the planned 2018 unmanned mission to Mars in the hopes that this would give enough data needed for the development of a next generation system that could be used in the first manned mission to the Red Planet in 2025.
Because Mars and Earth have different gravity levels, bringing and testing the system on the Red Planet is crucial because there is the possibility that the technology would work differently on Mars.
"The fact that the team has been successful in building a demonstration of the Urine GreenBox for the Department of Defense increases the chances of success of the project," the Mars One website reads. "However, the whole system must be redesigned for the conditions on Mars."
The Urine Greenbox is estimated to produce at least 16 ml from 20 ml of human urine from Earth. It can also recover nitrogen from the urine. The hydrogen produced using the Greenbox will also be coupled with a fuel cell in order to recover about 53 percent of the energy. Botte said that water and energy are both important because they are in short supply on planet Mars.
"Also known as "pee to power," the process could support human life on Mars by supplying fresh water and a reliable power source," OU said.