ESA’s ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre) held their annual open day over the weekend. One of the projects on display was part of the MELiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) project, which is investigating ways to use microbiological cells, chemicals, catalysts, algae, bacteria and plants to process waste and deliver continuous supplies of oxygen, water and food.
The toilet facilities at large events can be a bit basic, but visitors to the open day could make use of some really high-tech, space-age facilities.
Visitors to ESA’s Open Day in the Netherlands could relieve themselves and quench their thirst in one go, thanks to technology developed for space. A toilet unit built by Semilla Sanitation Hubs demonstrated the reliability of a closed water loop system by recycling and treating wastewater… and serving it as tea!
Used water is treated in a number of ways, including passing through physical filters, reverse osmosis (which draws fluid through a membrane) and UV irradiation. The system can also recover nutrients for crop cultivation.
Permanent space colonies, on the Moon or on Mars, will need closed-loop systems like these, but they are also useful here on Earth. The Concordia research station in Antarctica has a water recycling system based on Melissa, and the same system was used to treat groundwater for a University in Morocco. Closed-loop systems also offer the potential to achieve the United Nation’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal of clean drinking water and hygienic sanitation for everyone.
Commercially-available units are easily installed and can be used for first aid and development projects, or installed in homes. The only question now is… would you drink the tea?