Universe  ID: 11449

Igniting Waste

Caught up in the excitement of traveling to Mars or living on a space colony? Us too. But there’s one problem in particular that first needs to be solved: how to get rid of human waste during long-duration missions. Now, new technology being developed aboard the International Space Station by NASA and the French space agency may provide an answer. The key? Water. At a precise temperature and pressure, water reaches a supercritical state where it is neither a liquid nor gas, but something in between. When scientists add water to organic matter such as excrement and raise the slurry to this critical point, it's possible to burn the waste in a reaction which produces byproducts that are both useful and eco-friendly. Even better, after the water returns to its normal state it’s pure enough to drink. Watch the video to learn more.

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Story Credits

Lead Scientist:
Mike Hicks (NASA/GRC)

Lead Writer:
Julia Calderone (USRA)

Please give credit for this item to:
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Cover image courtesy of NASA
Supercritical water image courtesy of CNES
Test chamber image courtesy of CNES/P. Jalby

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