Fuel cell technology could make a manned mission to Mars possible

January 1, 2015 0 By Stephen Vagus

Fuel cell technology can convert urine into clean drinking water

Fuel cell technology may be used to provide water to the first manned mission to Mars. Researchers from the Ohio University’s Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research suggests that urine could be a valuable resource for those traveling to Mars in the future. A fuel cell can convert urine into drinking water, by extracting the hydrogen and water in urine and burning away the impurities found in the liquid. Fuel cells have been used in this way since 2002.

GreenBox is set to be tested aboard an unmanned craft to Mars in 2018

The team of researchers, lead by Gerardine Botte, have created what they call the “GreenBox.” This is a small fuel cell system that was designed for the purpose of converting urine into drinking water and producing electrical power. The GreenBox will be onboard an unmanned trek to Marks in 2018 in order to determine its capabilities. The GreenBox will be linked to a storage tank filled with urine, which it will use to produce water and electrical power. If the fuel cell system proves capable, it will be included in the first manned flight to Mars in 2025.

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GreenBox has been used by the Department of Defense

fuel cell technology - NASA Mars Rover ArtThe GreenBox may seem brand new, but the U.S. Department of Defense has been using this fuel cell system since 2012. This system is expected to convert 20 milliliters of urine into 16 milliliters of clean water. The GreenBox is also capable of producing hydrogen, which can be used to generate electricity. This hydrogen can be fed into another fuel cell system that can provide power for a range of electronic devices, or it can be fed into a storage system that will allow this hydrogen to be used at a later time.

Onboard production of water could help make a mission to Mars possible

Water is one of the world’s most precious resources, and this resource becomes much more valuable once people leave earth. Traveling to Mars is a massive undertaking that faces extraordinary challenges. For a manned mission to Mars to have the ability to produce its own water from waste could help make such a mission more possible.