A system made for filtering astronaut urine could provide clean water around the world.
Life on the International Space Station is a lesson in efficiency. To wit, the NASA astronauts there have to recycle all their urine back into drinkable water.
Now a company that designed an efficient wastewater recovery system for NASA has set its sights earthward, CNN reports, in hopes that similar technology might improve access to clean water around the world — yet another example of how tech designed explicitly to help humanity tackle the challenges of life in space might tangibly improve conditions back here on terra firma.
While astronauts in space need to get creative with their water supply, that's not to suggest that people ought to start drinking pee to access clean water. Rather, Aquaporin, the company behind the new system, suggests that the same kind of technology could be used to clean up other types of wastewater or filter existing drinking water supplies to the point that they could be used.
The tech works similarly to how your kidneys filter contaminants out of fluids — the wastewater flows through proteins called aquaporins that stop everything but the water itself from passing.
Roughly 2 billion people don't have access to clean drinking water, according to CNN, and a system like Aquaporin could help remove pollution and plastics from the supply.
"It has an enormous potential," Dines Thornberg, innovation manager at BIOFOS, Denmark's largest state-owned wastewater facility, told CNN. "I think the Aquaporin system could lead the way in actually creating clean, affordable drinking water from wastewater in the future. I am really optimistic that we can meet the challenges of water scarcity in many parts of the world with technologies like this."
More on space tech: NASA Chief: Space Exploration Has a Direct Impact on Our Lives on Earth