A filter for astronauts urine could soon provide drinking water on earth

LED lighting technology, which was developed to help astronauts avoid sleep deprivation, has been adapted for home use. In home training, a weight lifting system is used to help keep astronauts fit in weightlessness.

Now a company that developed a water treatment system for the ISS is developing spin-off technologies with the potential to deliver clean drinking water to the places where it is needed most.

On the ISS, every drop of moisture, from moisture to urine, has to be filtered and reused. However, the current system is very heavy, has to be replaced every 90 days and, according to NASA, does not filter out certain impurities.

The Danish company Aquaporin A / S has developed a new system that uses proteins called Aquaporins. “It is essentially the mechanism that allows water to pass through the cell membrane of living cells,” says Peter Holme Jensen, CEO of Aquaporin A / S. In nature, these proteins allow plant roots to take up water from the soil, and so do let the two human kidneys collectively filter about 45 gallons of fluid per day. They are also very selective and prevent contaminants from entering.

After NASA tests it in space, it is considering replacing its current system with that of aquaporin, but the technology is also finding use in the local area.

Over 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, and in developed countries many people do not trust the safety of tap water. More than half of US households are concerned about the quality of their water supply, and only 55% of Europeans drink water straight from the tap.

Aquaporin’s technology could help. The company works with wastewater companies, including BIOFOS, Denmark’s largest state-owned wastewater supplier, and UTB Envirotec in Hungary, to remove micropollutants and microplastics from wastewater and prevent them from flowing into the sea.

A study carried out at BIOFOS showed that aquaporins remove over 95% of microplastics and micropollutants in wastewater and use much less energy than conventional systems.

“It has enormous potential,” says BIOFOS innovation manager Dines Thornberg, who led the study. “I think the aquaporin system could play a pioneering role in creating clean and affordable drinking water from wastewater in the future. I am very optimistic that such technologies can meet the challenges of water scarcity in many parts of the world.”

Jörg Hess, COO of Aquaporin A / S, checks water filtered with the aquaporin membrane.

Clean water at home

Jensen also discovered an opportunity to enter the domestic water treatment market – a sector that is estimated to be worth $ 24 billion by 2025.

Last month Aquaporin A / S launched a household filter system under the sink that works without electricity. The system costs € 650 The company is currently targeting the European market. It is planned to expand into the US and then India and China over the next two years.

As production increases, the long-term goal is to offer an affordable product for regions with water scarcity. “I really believe we can make a difference,” says Jensen.