Well, here is an interesting experiment. When Atlantis launches into space at the end of this week, it will carry a special type of bag that has the magical ability to turn ANY kind of liquid, into a tasty electrolyte filled drink. The best part about it, it can achieve this without needing any energy input at all. This means that it can effectively take your pee, and turn it into a sports drink… I guess this is one of the downfalls of being an astronaut… what happens if the experiment fails? Better question, who did they use for the trial and errors?
According to NASA, The Forward Osmosis Bag System is the perfect solution to recycling water for astronauts on the go. Here is how it words:
“Forward osmosis is the natural diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane from a solution of a lower concentration to a solution with a higher concentration. The semi-permeable membrane acts as a barrier that allows small molecules such as water to pass through while blocking larger molecules like salts, sugars, starches, proteins, viruses, bacteria and parasites.”
… okay… so pretty much what they just said is, it takes your pee, and turns it back into clean water with added proteins… you fill the bag with any liquid that has any amount of water molecules, it then uses the osmotic pressure to scoot the liquid trough a VERY VERY tight filter that filtrates the water into a concentrated sugar solution. All of this happens without the use of any type of energy, other than gravity of course, but you don’t need to shake it, heat it, cool it, etc. After about 6 hours or so, you get to drink the ULTRA clean (allegedly) water… that has added electrolytes to keep you on the move…
If you think this is gross, you need to understand that NASA already recycles the pee on the International Space Station. The only difference is that the FOB system is more efficient, since it requires no energy, and is extremely “space” efficient. It is about 14 times more efficient than the current recycling they have in place right now. Nasa uses a “water taxi” to take water bags into the ISS. The main problem is that water is heavy, and takes a lot of space when it’s trying to be shipped to the ISS. So instead, they hope the new system will require less water transfers, less space, and less energy. They will still need to transfer water to the ISS because water is used and lost during normal body functions, like sweat, or body energy production, but they wont have to transport it as frequently as they have.
So are you one of the people who is ready to give this a shot? lucky for you, the company that develops these bags are willing to sell you a six pack of bags for about $23. Each bag will be able to produce 12 ounces of drinking water, or the equivalent of a can of soda. Not a bad deal IF you are going to use them on emergency situations, maybe Bear Grylls could use one of these for his show..