A FORMER Fife miner who has devised a series of inventions around dissolving materials including bandages and wipes has linked up with scientists at Strathclyde University to develop ways of tackling waste in space.

Brian McCormack has already developed a suite of dissolvable products he believes could transform the way healthcare professionals would treat burns, as well as flushable wipes.

The 62-year-old, who set up McCormack Innovation to develop his products, has now entered a five-year agreement to explore ways of tackling waste in space.

The next stage of the race will be in deep space, and Mr McCormack hopes Scotland will be at the forefront of developing sustainable space travel.

Mr McCormack has created a group of inventions that include a dissolvable bandage that works like conventional crepe dressings, yet can be removed by placing in water.

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He is also in advanced discussions with a number of global companies over taking his products to market.

Now he has linked up with experts at the to Strathclyde Aerospace Centre of Excellence to develop new products for space use.

The growing problem of waste in space prompted NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to launch a contest for ideas for tackling rubbish and other waste generated by space crew on long-range human space exploration missions, such as to the Moon or Mars.

Four astronauts can generate 2,500 kilograms of waste in a one-year mission.


Above: NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Expedition 30 flight engineer, is pictured among stowage bags in the Harmony node of the International Space Station. The bags, containing waste, will be transferred to the docked Progress 45 spacecraft for disposal. Credit: NASA

There is already an issue of waste material in space left over by earlier rockets, with between 16,000 and 20,000 pieces being tracked orbiting Earth.

Waste disposal methods on the International Space Station involve astronauts manually processing refuse by placing it into bags then loading it onto a designated vehicle for short term storage, which depending on the craft, returns the refuse to Earth or burns up in the atmosphere.

However, this disposal method will not be available for missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

READ MORE: Former Fife miner invents soluble bandages that could ease pain of millions

Mr McCormack said: “Currently general waste on the international space station - packaging, wipes, everything - is put in bags and stored in a capsule.

“The capsule is then released from the space station, the capsule enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up on entry like a meteor would.

“This is planned so the burn up happens above the Pacific Ocean and at times the rubbish is taken away by a visiting commercial vehicle that returns to Earth.

“This system works for low Earth orbit but not for deep space travel. In deep space there will not be the luxury of visiting commercial vehicles to take the rubbish away."

Above: NASA: 'We are going to the Moon by 2024.' Credit: NASA

Mr McCormack said: “In deep space if you released a waste capsule it would not be pulled back into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, it would travel at dangerously high speeds and pollute space.

“NASA has reached out to innovators and industry to develop a system that could solve this problem of disposal of waste in deep space. This is a major challenge.

“McCormack Innovation, who have developed the worlds first dissolving wipe, could see opportunity to introduce items of every day use in space travel that would dissolve after use.

“The biomedical tested wipe is one. Dissolving toilet paper and other packaging is also included.”

READ MORE: Watch: Former Fife miner's soluble bandage 'could revolutionise trauma and burns care'

The company agreed the link-up after a meeting with a team of space academics led by Professor Max Vasile and Dr Monica Oliveira.

Mr McCormack said: “It will be an honour for McCormack Innovation to work alongside this team on this project of dissolving waste in space, and making a very important contribution to deep space travel. Again, first-class innovation coming out Scotland.”

Dr Oliveira, senior lecturer in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said: “Waste management is a great challenge in space, especially in the context of long-duration space missions. Any innovative solutions that help to mitigate issues of waste are key for sustainable long-duration human space travel.”