From LED lights to digital cameras to GPS, innovations designed for the purpose of space exploration have long benefitted life here on Earth. Now a company that designed a water-purification system for the International Space Station (ISS) aims to use that technology to help solve the global water crisis.
Called Aquaporin A/S, the Danish company behind the new tech first developed its system as a replacement for the current water filtration system on the ISS. According to NASA, the current system is very heavy, has to be replaced every 90 days and it also fails to filter out certain contaminants.
The new Danish system does the job better, using proteins called aquaporins. “It is essentially the mechanism that allows water to cross the cell membrane of living cells,” says Peter Holme Jensen, CEO of Aquaporin A/S.
As explained by CNN, in nature, aquaporins allow plant roots to absorb water from the soil and let the two human kidneys together filter about 45 gallons of fluid per day. What’s particularly interesting about these proteins tho is that they are highly selective, allowing only water to pass through.
Having tested it in space, NASA is now considering replacing its current system with Aquaporin’s. But the inventors behind the new system are also working to use it to help solve the global water crisis, which is affecting over 2 billion people worldwide.
As part of this goal, the company has partnered with wastewater companies to remove micropollutants and microplastics from wastewater, preventing them from flowing into the sea. A study has shown that apart from being significantly more energy-efficient than traditional systems, aquaporins are effective at removing over 95 percent of microplastics and micropollutants in wastewater.
“It has an enormous potential,” says study lead Dines Thornberg. “I think the Aquaporin system could lead the way in actually creating clean, affordable drinking water from wastewater in the future. I am really optimistic that we can meet the challenges of water scarcity in many parts of the world with technologies like this.”
Image source: NASA