NASA is clearly looking far into the future for a way to handle both human waste and a need for fuel on either long space flights or when attempting to colonize another planet. To that end, they’ve assigned life support engineer Jonathan Trent the task of coming up with a way to use algae to solve both problems at once. His solution is to use plastic bags floating in seawater as small bioreactors, containing wastewater, sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow algae that can be used as a means to create biofuel.
Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA) is an innovative method to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide and ultimately produce biofuel. Using treated sewage as a growth medium, OMEGA would not compete with agriculture for water, fertilizer or land. NASA’s OMEGA system consists of large flexible plastic tubes, called photobioreactors. Floating in seawater, the photobioreactors contain freshwater algae growing in wastewater. These algae are among the fastest growing plants on Earth.