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Astronauts could use their own urine to make concrete on the moon

Researchers in a recent study found that urea, the main organic compound in urine, could make a mixture for 'lunar concrete.'

BERLIN, Germany — The European Space Agency said Friday that human urine could one day become a useful ingredient in making concrete to build on the moon.

The agency said researchers in a recent study it sponsored found that urea, the main organic compound in urine, would make the mixture for a “lunar concrete” more malleable before it hardens into its sturdy final form.

It noted that using only materials available on site for a Moon base or other construction would reduce the need to launch supplies from Earth.

The main ingredient in “lunar concrete” would be a powdery soil found on the Moon’s surface known as lunar regolith. ESA said urea, which can break hydrogen bonds and reduce the viscosity of fluid mixtures, would limit the amount of water necessary in the recipe.

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“Thanks to future lunar inhabitants, the 1.5 liters (3.2 pints) of liquid waste a person generates each day could become a promising by-product for space exploration,” it said in a statement.

On Earth, urea is used as an industrial fertilizer and a raw material by chemical and medical companies.

“The hope is that astronaut urine could be essentially used as it is on a future lunar base, with minor adjustments to the water content," study co-author Marlies Arnhof said in the ESA statement. “This is very practical, and avoids the need to further complicate the sophisticated water recycling systems in space.”

Credit: David Duprey
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo shows a full moon over Pembroke, N.Y. at its closest point to the Earth since March 1993.