NASA just announced that they managed to successfully recover 98% of clean water after they processed the urine of the astronauts who were in the International Space Station.
Engineers at NASA worked endlessly to develop a filtration system that could change urine into potable water to enable people aboard the station to have a supply of water.
Urine passes through different phases to become potable water
There have been some methods used in the International Space Station to make the incredible breakthrough, before it was thought that the maximum amount that could be turned into water was 94%, however, the new investigation got it closer and could use up to 98%.
“A brine processor assembly (BPA) developed to extract this remaining wastewater has been on the space station as a demonstration of its performance in microgravity. Recent evaluations found that the BPA helped the system achieve the 98% water recovery goal,” NASA explains.
The statement issued by ECLSS claimed that “The processing is fundamentally similar to some terrestrial water distribution systems, only it is done in microgravity,” Jill Williamson, who is the ECLSS water subsystems manager also mentioned that “The crew is not drinking urine; they are drinking water that has been recovered, filtered and cleaned in a way that is cleaner than what we drink here on Earth.”
How can the system convert urine to drinking water?
On the ISS where the investigation took place, the top-notch water recovery system has different stages, first, it removes large impurities with a microgravity filter where the waste is treated with chemicals removing all possible bacteria and contaminants.
Then the multiple-effect evaporator is used to raise the temperature and collect the vapor to later condense it as purified water.
Since the water may still have minimum remains of the cleaning chemicals, they use another purification stage by osmosis then the liquid is stored on the International Space Station.
However, the water resulting from this process still contains traces of chemicals and may taste slightly different from conventional drinking water. It is therefore subjected to an additional purification stage using a reverse osmosis system, which uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove any residue.