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Surprising Science

Innovations in Dying

Burial and cremation are no longer the only ways of putting your loved one to rest. A Scottish company has installed the first 'alkaline hydrolysis' unit in a Florida funeral home.

What’s the Latest Development?


A company based in Glasgow, Scotland, is offering a high-tech alternative to how we typically put our loved ones to rest. The process is called ‘alkaline hydrolysis’ and the company claims there are environmental benefits. It works by dissolving a body’s flesh in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide. “The process leaves behind the bones, which can be ground into a powder, much like the ashes after cremation, and returned to family and friends. The bodily tissue, once it is dissolved into a liquid, gets poured into the municipal water system where it enters the natural water cycle.”

What’s the Big Idea?

In cities with dwindling room for cemeteries, new burial techniques that economize space may be an attractive solution to a very sensitive problem. Another new technique called promession is being developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak. “Promession requires infusing the body with liquid nitrogen and vibrating it until it essentially shatters. The fragments are passed through a filter to remove any metals, such as dental work, and placed in a smaller coffin for shallow burial.” Sixty countries are already interested in the technology. 


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