Feasibility of recovering water and nutrients from urine for space exploration using breakthrough technologies.

Cranfield University


This MSc by research offers an exciting opportunity to study one of the most interesting, yet one of humanity’s’ greatest challenges space exploration. For over thirty years the European Space Agency and partners have been working to develop technologies that astronauts could take with them on a spacecraft to explore our Solar System. Water and nutrients are essential for sustaining human life. In space, resources are limited and resupply missions from Earth are expensive and impractical. Therefore, recycling and reusing water and nutrients are critical for long-duration space missions, where self-sufficiency is crucial. In such environments, urine is THE unlimited source of water and nutrients, the latter enabling food production. Join our breakthrough team on this journey and make your mark on space exploration. 

Humans have an inherent drive to explore and push the boundaries of what is known. Space exploration allows us to satisfy our curiosity about the universe, discover new frontiers, and explore the possibility of life beyond Earth. Launching supplies into space is extremely expensive due to the high cost of launching mass. By recycling water and nutrients, the need to transport large quantities of consumables from Earth can be significantly reduced, saving costs and allowing more efficient use of spacecraft mass. Recovering resources from urine is a key component of developing closed-loop life support systems. These systems aim to recycle and reuse all available resources, including water and nutrients, within the spacecraft or space habitat. By closing the loop, space missions can achieve self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on resupply missions from Earth. 

This project aims at investigating the feasibility of breakthrough technologies for intensified and robust water and nutrient recovery from urine for space exploration. By combining chemical, biological and physical separation processes we can recover clean water and nutrient rich salts and solutions that can sustain astronauts during space missions to have access to water sources and means to grow food.  

This project is funded by the European Space Agency that participates in international human spaceflight activities, including crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS). ESA astronauts conduct experiments, technology demonstrations, and research in microgravity environments. ESA is also actively involved in planning future human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, including lunar missions and potential missions to Mars. Our partners in this project, HYDROHM, was established in 2020, as a spin-off company of Ghent University. We build on years of experience in research and development, and bring together the latest innovations in electrochemical engineering. 

Cranfield’s world-class expertise, large-scale facilities and unrivalled industry partnerships is creating leaders in technology and management globally. In the field of Water Science and Engineering, Cranfield Water Sciences Institute (CWSI) is recognised internationally for its research, education, training and consultancy. CWSI offers leading expertise and training on water and sanitation, water policy and governance, modelling, water and wastewater technology and risk management for the water sector. 

An MSc by research at Cranfield University is an intensive research degree that allows successful candidates to demonstrate their ability to conduct research, whilst benefiting from the support of academic supervisors – this is a 12 month research programme. Cranfield University is well known for its excellence delivering research for the water industry. Our students are a key part of this relationship, often finding careers within the industry after completing their studies at Cranfield. As such this MSc by research provides an excellent opportunity for the successful candidate to gain experience on cutting edge applied research and its dissemination into the life-support systems in space providing ideal skills development for future careers within both academia and industry.

At a glance

  • Application deadline21 Jun 2023
  • Award type(s)MSc by Research
  • Duration of award1 year
  • EligibilityUK, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSWEE0219


1st Supervisor: Professor Ana Soares

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first- or second-class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline such as biotechnology, microbiology, chemistry, engineering, or environmental science. The ideal candidate should have some understanding of urine/wastewater analysis, working with lab-scale and pilot-plants whilst following of working under strict health and safety regulations. The candidate should be self-motivated, have excellent oral and written communication skills for regular interaction with other stakeholders, with an interest in applied fundamental and apply scientific research. 


Sponsored by: European Space Agency, this studentship will provide a bursary up to £19,000/year (tax free) plus UK or overseas student university fees for the duration of the award, which is 1 year. 

 The studentship is open to UK and international/overseas applicants.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact:

Name:  Professor Ana Soares


T: (0) 1234 750111

If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form stating the reference No. SWEE0219

To help us track our recruitment effort, please indicate in your email – cover/motivation letter where (nearmejobs.eu) you saw this posting.

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