Is humanity doomed?
"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," Christopher House from Penn State, a co-author on the study, said in a statement. "It's a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you're eating a smear of 'microbial goo.'" You see, US astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are already recycling their urine, so this idea may not be so farfetched, don't you think?
Researchers of the Penn State University in Pennsylvania didn’t use actual human waste. They, instead, utilized an artificial solid and liquid waste that is usually tested for waste management. Then, the artificial feces is put this inside a cylinder 1.2 meters (4 feet) long so that the microbes can break it down via anaerobic digestion (without oxygen).
They found that methane was produced when digesting. This could grow another microbe called Methylococcus capsulatusthat’s--one ingredient of animal feed. And with this, they produced a M. capsulatus that has 52 percent protein and 36 percent fat. They didn't even stop there; they increased the pH level and temperature to enable growth of two equally nutritious microbes, Halomonas desiderata and Thermus aquaticus, which ultimately removes any harmful pathogens.
“Based on the results of the study... microbial growth is a rapid option for the production of new foodstuff from the liberated nutrients,” the team writes in their paper.
Will this be a good news to NASA and the astronauts? We'll see.
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