Scientists turn human waste into rocket fuel

Pratap Pullammanappallil from the University of Florida with his anaerobic digesterResearchers at the University of Florida (UF) claim to have discovered a way to turn human excrement into rocket fuel.

The engineers have conducted trials at the behest of NASA and fit into plans to build a site on the moon and needed to solve the conundrum of what to do with something that’s essentially excess baggage.

The UF scientists said they attempted to discover how much methane could be made from uneaten food, packaging and human waste.

Faculty member Pratap Pullammanappallil said: “The idea was to see whether we could make enough fuel to launch rockets and not carry all the fuel and its weight from Earth for the return journey. Methane can be used to fuel the rockets.  Enough methane can be produced to come back from the moon.”

Experimenting with a package containing all sorts of rubbish, they ran tests and discovered a process they used would make 290 litres of methane per crew per day.

They formulated an anaerobic digestion process which destroys pathogens and produces a biogas which also, incidentally, can produce around 200 gallons of non drinkable water annually from the waste. That water can be split electrolytically into oxygen and hydrogen, the former element being used as a back up breathing system.