News Feature | January 12, 2015

Invention Makes Urine Drinkable For Astronauts

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A new invention that turns urine into drinkable water may be important to the future of space travel.

"Meet Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University and the inventor responsible for GreenBox, a system of tubes that makes consumption of one’s own urine sensible. What the handy gadget will do is take a bunch of pee and convert roughly 80 percent of it back into potable water," according to the Examiner.

The other 20 percent is broken down to hydrogen and nitrogen byproducts from the urine. It is stored in fuel cells, although about half of it is lost in the process, according to the Examiner report.

Botte "says she discovered the idea while researching fuel cells in 2002, leading to her patented GreenBox," according to Space Reporter.

GreenBox may be poised to play a role in future space expeditions.

"The gizmo [was] named one of 10 finalists in a competition to see which inventions might be included in humankind’s first manned excursion to Mars," the report said. Botte says that if her invention undergoes more testing, "the next generation system could be sent in the first-ever human mission to Mars in 2025."

Botte is enthusiastic about the recognition her project has received.

"Who wouldn't dream to contribute at least a tiny piece to the success to explore other planets?" she said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.

What's the point of testing the technology on Mars?

"The g-levels (gravity levels) in any process are important. The technology must be tested on the Mars surface, as the behavior will be different than on Earth, for example, gravity changes from 1 g on Earth to 0.38 g. on Mars. The demonstration must be tested on Mars to confirm that all systems function correctly under different gravitational conditions," Botte wrote in her project description.