According to a recent study, researchers are now considering human waste as a food resource for astronauts during long-haul missions.
A team from the Pennsylvania State University managed to break down solid and liquid waste in tests that used microbial reactors. The recycle human waste experiment results are edible and efficient, claim the scientists.
This process does not turn the astronaut waste itself into food. Instead, it works by breaking down the food and liquid waste from the waste through artificial digestion.
Microbes save oxygen and intervene in the human waste digestion. During the process, the body produces methane and leads to the creation of Methylococcus capsulatus, a highly nutritious bacterium. According to the study, the experiment results have 54% protein and 36% fats.
“Anaerobic digestion is something we use frequently on Earth for treating waste. It’s an efficient way of getting mass treated and recycled. What was novel about our work was taking the nutrients out of that stream and intentionally putting them into a microbial reactor to grow food”, said Professor Christopher House from Penn State.
The feces-based food looks like slime and might not have a delicious taste. According to researchers, it resembles Marmite or Vegemite. However, it might turn out to be a valuable resource, especially during the long-discussed, future one-year trip to Mars.
The Prospects of the Recycle Human Waste Experiment
The experiment turned the human waste into food in 13 hours. Therefore, researchers might continue on this line of research and even prototype the food-production system. This test was funded by NASA and the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center.
Astronauts in current missions are already recycling their urine to produce water. They use a process that consumes a lot of energy.
Meanwhile, their solid waste is ejected into the Earth’s atmosphere, where it burns up, state researchers. This latest recycle initiative might save more energy and space than any other currently available solutions, including those cultivating potatoes and tomatoes.
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