There are a lot of ways to deal with a person's body after he or she is done using it. Their last remains can be buried, burned, put in trees or donated to science. But one Swedish company has a different approach to sending people off to their final rewards. Freeze drying. Just like the liquid T-1000 in Terminator 2. It turns out to be one of the greenest ways to go.
It turns out that traditional burial takes a toll on the environment. There's the coffin, which is either metal or wood, heavy, and sometimes finished with toxic materials. Since many coffins deteriorate, leaving unsightly hollows in an otherwise beautiful cemetary, many cemetaries require vaults. Those vaults use tons of concrete that has to be made and transported. The process of getting the body ready also has an environmental impact. About three million litres of embalming fluid are used per year, so that even getting the body ready took time. Each cremation takes enough energy to drive almost 8000km, and the combined results of all cremations releases thousands of pounds of mercury into the atmosphere.
Promessa, in Sweden, has come up with a method of burial that negates the worst aspects of the disposal of remains. They want to freeze human bodies, then shatter them into a million pieces. The body is chilled to around -18C. Once it's cold enough, it's submerged in liquid nitrogen. As the body becomes colder, it gets more brittle. Once it's brittle enough, it's shocked with soundwaves that crumble it into powder.
The powder still weighs about as much as a human body, so the next step is removing the largest component of the human body; water. Powder is put in a vacuum chamber. Water boils instantly in a vacuum, so the water steams out of the body. With it goes about 70 per cent of the body's mass. What's left over is the organic material of the body, mixed together with a metal parts - such as pace makers or other medical devices - and that troublesome mercury. The metal is separated out and the powder sterilized, leaving the powder behind.
From there the company recommends a cornstarch coffin and a plot that will allow the remains to turn into compost within a year and half. No additives, hardwood coffins, or huge cemetary plots. Also no word on whether the sound that's used to shatter the body is the Terminator theme.