NASA Spinoff magazine has an article about a down-to-earth example of a technology developed for Mars that has found a refreshing application on earth: CO2 Recovery System Saves Brewers Money, Puts Bubbles into Beer –
Building on work he and his companies did with Johnson Space Center’s In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) team, Robert Zubrin has developed and commercialized technologies that could prove revolutionary in their Earth applications, such as a system that could extract millions of barrels of oil from defunct oil wells around the world and another that can harness all the natural gas currently burned off as waste at many oil drilling rigs (Spinoff 2015).
But when he’s not working to change this world or colonize others, the president of Pioneer Astronautics, Pioneer Energy, and the Mars Society enjoys a good microbrew. Now, he’s applied some of that same technology to cut costs for craft breweries that produce anywhere between 3,000 and 300,000 barrels per year.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, as a NASA contractor and then as founder of Pioneer Aeronautics, Zubrin worked with Johnson’s ISRU team to develop technology that could break down elements that are abundant on Mars and turn them into essential resources for exploration missions. Early work devised means to capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) that comprises more than 95 percent of the thin Martian atmosphere and turn it into oxygen and fuel. He built systems that could, for example, collect and separate CO2 from other gases, raise its pressure by two orders of magnitude, combine it with hydrogen to make methane and water, break the water down into oxygen and hydrogen, and remove water vapor from the resulting oxygen before it was stored.
Some of this technology, such as systems that manipulate temperature and pressure to liquefy and store gases or to strip water from a gas, as well as the technology that allows such systems to run autonomously, has found its way into Lakewood, Colorado-based Pioneer Energy’s latest creation, the CO2 Craft Brewery Recovery System.