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Cooking With Urine In the Battlefield...In a Pinch

Would you want your soldiers to cook their meals in a pinch in muddy swamp water or even their own urine? Food scientists working with the U.S. military have developed a dried food ration that troops can hydrate by adding muddy swamp water or even urinating on it.

The food product comes in a pouch containing a filter that removes virtually all of the bacteria and most toxic chemicals from the water used to rehydrate it, according to the Combat Feeding Directorate, part of the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., the same organization that created the "indestructible sandwich" that will stay fresh for three years.

The aim is to reduce the amount of water soldiers need to carry. One day's food supply of three meals, weighs 3.5 kilograms. That can be reduced to about 0.4 kilograms with the dehydrated pouches.

The pouch--containing chicken and rice initially--relies on osmosis to filter the water or urine. When two solutions of different concentrations are separated by a semipermeable membrane, with gaps that allow only water molecules to pass through, the water is drawn to the more concentrated side.

The membranes are made of thin sheets of a cellulose-based plastic, with gaps between the fibres that are just 0.5 nanometres across, too small for bacteria to pass through.

The body will not find this toxic over the short term, but rehydrating food this way in the long term would cause kidney damage.

New Scientist July 21, 2004

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