ESA Technology Transfer Success Story - No such thing as a waste product: using space technology to recycle urine [Aug/2022]
URIDIS innovative electrochemical water treatment technology, developed under ESA’s MELiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) project is being used by Belgian company Hydrohm to treat urine on Earth, saving water and recovering valuable nutrients.
MELiSSA is a European project led by ESA, bringing 50 research institutes and organisations together to develop circular life support systems for the ISS and beyond. One crucial waste product to recycle is urine. Urine is an important source of water and nutrients, yet is challenging to recycle as it rapidly degrades, and so requires fast stabilisation.Developed under ESA’s MELiSSA, URIDIS is an innovative technology using electrochemical urine alkalinisation to stabilise the urine using electricity, so that valuable nutrients can be extracted. Belgian company Hydrohm uses the patented URIDIS technology, combined with a self-cleaning toilet system new for the terrestrial application. Hydrohm successfully treated the urine of over 3,500 visitors and received positive feedback on the Laufen source-separating toilet and disinfecting flush water.
Hydrohm’s terrestrial technology builds on the space application and provides water savings of up to 60% relative to the average toilet.
Though data for specific energy savings from the URIDIS system are not yet available, a recent study found that urine diversion technologies (such as source separating toilets) had better environmental performance than a normal toilet system, producing 29-47% less greenhouse gas emissions and consuming 26-41% less energy.
With ESA’s help, Hydrohm are confident that they have created a product that is not only sustainable, but also offers strong commercial opportunities through the addition of the disinfecting flush water systems, which reduce maintenance and cleaning costs, as well as the potential for additional nutrient recovery for fertilisers. Hydrohm’s business model involves selling the system to commercial users, then providing continued maintenance after installation.
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This initiative is led by ESA's Technology Transfer and Patent Management Unit (TTPO) in ESA's Directorate for Commercialisation, Industry & Procurement. The Unit is guiding start-ups, entrepreneurs and European businesses in developing spin-offs for ESA's space technologies. More recent successful transfers can be accessed at: Technology Transfer - Funded Projects. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.