Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

NASA’s High Altitude Hydration System Gets High Marks from R&D 100

An innovative technology developed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for harsh, cold, high-altitude conditions has reached a new height as a recent winner of a prestigious R&D 100 Award.

The High Altitude Hydration System was originally conceived and designed by astronaut-mountaineer Scott Parazynski who recognized the great risk of dehydration in high mountains and the lack of sufficient technology to meet trekkers’ hydration needs. The High Altitude Hydration System is designed to work in temperatures down to 40 degrees below zero Celsius and 15-mile-per-hour winds over a 12-hour summit day, and likely well beyond. Parazynski completed field testing on Mt. Everest, reaching the summit in May 2009.

Dehydration is a life-threatening complication for high-altitude climbers. The lightweight High Altitude Hydration System provides 2-3 liters of liquid beverage (water, tea or nutritional supplement) over the course of a full summit day. The straw is insulated with aerogel or other highly efficient insulators, a feature that allows the heating system to work without extra thickness or weight. The technology uses passive transfer of body heat in one option, an intermediate variant system in another, and a battery-powered microcontroller in a third.

This technology is certainly big news for all cold weather sports enthusiasts (hikers, climbers, skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, hunters), rescue crews, and military personnel—and the nod from R&D Magazine and the R&D 100 Awards highlights its exceptional innovation.

Considered the “Oscars of Innovation,” the awards have identified revolutionary technologies newly introduced to the market since 1963. The technology and Johnson Space Center will be recognized at an award ceremony in November.

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–By Karen Hiser