Researchers have come up with a method for converting human faeces to a potential source of food that could be used by astronauts for deep space missions to outer space. Scientists at the Pennsylvania State University in the US have discovered that it is possible to break down human waste to grow food with a series of reactors. The process can also reduce pathogen growth simultaneously.
"We envisioned and tested the concept of simultaneously treating astronauts' waste with microbes while producing a biomass that is edible either directly or indirectly depending on safety concerns," said Christopher House, professor of geosciences at Penn State. House admitted that it is a bit strange but the concept is a lot like “Marmite or Vegemite where you're eating a smear of 'microbial goo.’”
The idea behind this research could have been sparked off from the fact that carrying a lot of food from Earth eats up a lot of volume, increasing the mass and fuel cost of the spacecraft. Growing food on a spacecraft requires a lot of energy and is a water intensive process that takes up a lot of space.
The researchers used artificial solid and liquid wastes commonly used in waste management tests for their experiment. An enclosed, cylindrical system was created, in which a select group of microbes were brought in contact with the waste. Using anaerobic digestion, the microbes broke down the waste in a way that is similar to how humans digest food. The team established that the microbial growth can possibly be used in order to produce nutritious food for a deep space flight.