Since water is plentiful throughout the solar system (well at least upon Luna as well as Mars), future settlers may see little value in recycling their “waste water,” when it would be much more desirable to purify the frozen aqua around them.
Instead of burying the dreaded stuff or burning it off into the void, future colonists could instead use it to help keep the lights burning bright upon dark, frozen worlds.
[S]cientists have begun to crack the code of how bacteria that live without the aid of oxygen convert ammonium — a key chemical in urine — into hydrazine, which is a type of rocket fuel.
“It is a complex of three proteins” that do the trick, Mike Jetten, a microbiologist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, explained to me in an email today.
The urine-to-fuel concept first gained traction in the 1990s when scientists discovered the microbe, called anammox for anaerobic ammonium oxidation, that does this, but the idea stalled out when scientists realized only small quantities of the fuel are produced. (Future of Technology)
Thanks to a greater understanding of how hydrazine works, scientists like Jetten are confident that they will be able to generate a significant amount of fuel, which they envision will be useful as rocket fuel.
Although producing enough hydrazine from urine to satisfy future rocket demand may prove difficult, scientists might be able to produce enough to power a few small settlements or even a decent sized rover.
While residents upon terrestrial worlds may laugh at the idea of powering their homes via recycled pee, it could enable asteroid colonies to survive upon dry rocks without having to rely entirely upon solar power or a mini-nuclear reactors.
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