Rights to a special low-temperature hydration system originally developed by NASA for astronauts – one that makes heavy use of the insulating wonder aerogel – is now being made available for licensing.

In a release from Fuentek LLC, the company announces that the Johnson Space Center has selected it to find prospective licensees for NASA’s High Altitude Hydration System. The major distinction of this system is that it prevents fluids from freezing.

This benefit of such a high-performance system is obvious for the freezing temperatures of space, but mountaineers also need a system that will not freeze in harsh conditions. Thus, Fuentek says it will target the manufacturers of outdoor equipment in commercializing the technology that can be used to use body heat to prevent freezing in tubing, containers and mouthpieces.

Credit for the creation of the NASA system is given to astronaut-mountaineer Scott Parazynski. In a post on the company blog, Fuentek representative Karen Hiser provides details about the hydration system:

“Dehydration is a life-threatening complication for high-altitude climbers,” says Hiser, “The lightweight device will provide 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.”

I’m not a mountaineer, but I believe them when they say climbers have a great risk of dehydration in high mountains. Fuentek says the NASA system can provide 2-3 liters of liquids over a 12-hour period in minus 40°C temperature and 15 mph winds over a 12-hour summit day. I am not sure if these are typical use numbers, so I have no idea if the system can still work in conditions like the summit of Mt. Everest where wind speeds of 110 kph (about 70 mph) are encountered.

“Whether using a hands-free hydration system or traditional, insulated water bottle, virtually every climber and cold-weather athlete has had their water freeze when they needed it most. This new technology provides an alternative to traditional hydration systems and will help prevent the life-threatening complications that accompany dehydration,” says Hiser.

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