That’s the mission adopted by a team at the Florida Institute of Technology–they hope to bring the flexibility and sustainability of poop power to space. As a first step towards that goal, they’re testing the ability of a special hydrogen-creating bacteria, called Shewanella MR-1, to live aboard a UN satellite, says Fast Company:
The goal is, to put it bluntly, to see if Shewanella can convert astronaut feces into hydrogen for use in onboard fuel cells. “The bacteria generates hydrogen. If we give waste to bacteria, it converts to hydrogen that could be used in a fuel cell. We’re looking at how reliable the bacteria are,” explains Donald Platt, the Program Director for the Space Sciences and Space Systems Program at the Florida Institute of Technology.
The bacteria will be going up on the UN’s first satellite, a $5 million project by the UN’s Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that will stay in space for five years. The satellite is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2011. If the bacteria are able to successfully grow in space, this project might lead the way to recycling the astronaut waste of the future, instead of freeze drying the excrement and turning it into a shooting star.
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Mutant turtles, we might have guessed, but Canadian drainage crews have found something else in Edmonton sewers: dinosaur bones. Experts from the Royal Tyrrell Museum are now working to confirm the bones’ donors but suspect that the uncovered limb and tooth bones once belonged to T. rex cousin Albertosaurus (pictured below) and duck-faced Edmontosaurus.
Andy Neuman, executive director of the museum, told the BBC he was impressed that the crews acted as “good stewards” and reported the bones found while digging a new tunnel. Workers will now try to uncover other bones from the sewer tunnel walls.
As the dinosaurs’ names suggest, finding such fossils in the province of Alberta and its capital city, Edmonton, isn’t all that rare–but Neuman says this is the first time the city itself has found the bones. Leanna Mohan, the museum’s marketing coordinator, told the BBC that when it comes to finding dinosaur bones, not every find is significant:
“I can go out on a hike on a Sunday and find a dinosaur bone.”
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Image: Wikimedia / Matt Martyniuk
An hour southwest of Berlin, in the town of Treuenbrietzen, Mozart has played non-stop for two months. The classical composer’s audience? Waste-eating microbes.
As Spiegel Online reports, the German waste-facility’s owners believe the music, coupled with more oxygen, will make their microbes eat biosolids more efficiently, saving money and leaving less residual waste. Their idea comes from the German firm Mundus, headquartered in Wiesenburg, whose founder cites Mozart’s “very good effect on people.”
It’s fairly easy to poo-poo this experiment, especially given other wildly-marketed but later refuted claims attributed to the man’s music. Many of these Mozart miracles first surfaced after Frances Rauscher at the University of California, Irvine questioned in a 1993 paper (pdf) in Nature if listening to classical music could increase adolescent performance on IQ tests. Though Rauscher found that the music did seem to increase performance, later studies showed no effect.
Though the waste-facility spent hundreds on fancy stereo equipment, management hopes the scheme will save them thousands in expenses each year. One only hopes that the music will make their human employees a bit happier at a job that might otherwise stink.
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Image: flickr / gruntzooki
Taking recycling to a whole new level, the Peepoo bag allows you to, well, pee and poo in a bag, which can then be planted to help your garden grow. For slums in the developing world where human waste is an unregulated nightmare and flying toilets are common practice, the bag provides a means of waterless sewage disposal and organic fertilizer all in one easy, biodegradable step.
The bag is lined with Urea, a common fertilizer that breaks down urine and feces into ammonia and carbonate. Pathogens in the waste, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, are killed within anywhere from a matter of hours to several weeks.
Bathroom time may not be wasted time after all: A year’s worth of your poop can be turned into 2.1 gallons of useable diesel. And the Norwegian capital of Oslo plans to put all that waste to work powering 80 of its buses with fuel made from the Bekkelaget sewage treatment plant, which houses the waste of 250,000 people.
If all goes as planned, the city’s other waste treatment plant, as well as biofuels made from food waste, will eventually contribute to the total supply—and with serious results: Fueling 400 or so buses this way would reduce 30,000 tons of carbon emissions a year.
While the idea certainly has an “ick factor,” it’s not like gas-station attendants will have to start shoveling sewage directly into a bus’ fuel tank.