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Human Waste: The Next 3D Printing Material?

Disrupter Daily has a fascinating (yet also quite disturbing) new report concerning NASA’s new interest in using human waste as 3D printing material for tools to be created and used in space.

Of course, this isn’t the first time NASA has considered using such unconventional building materials.  Earlier in the year, “researchers at Penn State University were brainstorming methods of turning solid and liquid human waste into hygienic human food.”

Now, a team at the University of Calgary are investigating a process which would “allow astronauts a virtually inexhaustible means of creating tools and other materials which they require along their voyage.”

This theoretical process would involve “the conversion of genetically engineered E. coli bacteria into a type of plastic known as polyhydroxybutyrate.  First, the waste must be left to sit for several days, a required step to increase the amount of volatile fatty acids in the sample. After extraction and further fermentation processes are completed, the waste-turned-plastic would be put through a Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printer to create the objects needed by the astronauts.”

In order to test their theoretical process, the team at the University of Calgary plans to test it using Canada’s Falcon 20 aircraft this summer.  “The first experiment aims only to extract granules of plastic from the waste, but the team hopes, in time, they will be able to create several types of plastic from the same underlying processes, and that those processes will translate successfully [for astronauts on] space missions.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Disruptor Daily

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