New research use urine combined with yeast to make omega-3 fatty acids and a polymer plastic for use in 3D printing plastics in space.
Space travel requires creative ways to maximize in-space efficiency so astronauts can reduce the number of expensive shipments and the amount of supplies needed on missions, while making use of everything that’s already there. This includes their urine, which has become a core part of the efficiency efforts.
Even as featured in blockbuster movies like The Martian, the ability to create anything useful from waste while in space is crucial to the future of space exploration. Researchers from the Clemson University have discovered some use for a variety of strains of the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica – these organisms require both nitrogen and carbon to grow. The team discovered that the yeast can obtain their nitrogen from urea in untreated urine. This could be a key step in producing a plastic for use in a 3D printer. 3D printing is essential in space, since anything that can be printed wouldn’t have to be carried into space.
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Producing useful items from waste in space opens up new possibilities for space travel. According to Mark Blenner, from the research team, astronauts will not be able to produce everything they need in space anytime soon, but this is certainly an interesting part of the equation.
Links: Clemson University
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