NASA turns trash into fuel, no word yet on flying time-traveling DeLorean

NASA

The boys in the white lab coats might not be able to make a flying a car or see what serious stuff happens when one hits 88 miles per hour, but the scientists over at NASA are looking to bring the technology of Back to the Future to life.

In their This Week @NASA video, scientists working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) showed off a way of to turn trash into fuel. Before you start spamming them about how “Doc Brown did it first,” note that the process of turning that 16-ounce bottle of soda in the movie into fuel for the flying DeLorean relied on a Mr. Fusion generator, a piece of technology that we’re still trying to make work in the real world.

The JPL team uses a simpler method for its generator: incineration. Developed to go up to the International Space Station in 2018, this reactor looks to turn trash into methane (fuel), oxygen for breathable air, and water for the astronauts to drink as they float around in the vacuum of space.

In an environment where nothing can go to waste, the reactor sounds like a much-needed solution to one problem that faces scientists who live for on the space station for extended periods of time. Instead of counting bags and bottles as another ounce of useless trash you have to blast into space, these items could supply much needed energy and life support for the crews studying the stars.

And while the technology to go back in time and nearly make out with our mothers is still in its infancy (and maybe it’s better off that way), the trash-turning reactor appears to have terrestrial applications as well. Small villages in places that lack proper sources of electricity would benefit from a reactor that turns garbage into fuel.

Until they hit their big deadline of 2018, scientists will look to perfect the device to make it smaller and more efficient for the long stay in space.

There’s still no word if any of them came up with the idea after hitting their head on the sink while on the toilet.

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