The alkaline hydrolysis (AH) process, also referred to as aquamation, has actually been around over a century in use with animals that have passed. The process is quite simple:
Water is heated to about 300 degrees (f) with a chemical called sodium hydroxide. This solution is a base, or alkaline (see alkaline/acid FAQ), solution that works to speed up the decomposition process. The body is placed into the aquamation chamber that is sealed and the solution is added. Under pressure, the water is heated and the process begins to work on the soft tissues of the body.
When a body is buried in the ground, over time the macromolecules, such as fat, protein, and DNA are broken down into their components as water hydrolyzes the cellular structure and returns the nutrients of the body to the earth.
When a body is aquamated, this same process takes place, but instead of months or even years, it takes a few hours. The active process is about three hours. The liquid that is left over from the process can then be returned to the earth as nutrients for plants.
What remains after this process is the bones. The same thing that remains after regular fire cremation, with two significant improvements – the bones from aquamation are whiter and we are able to return, on average, 20% more remains because the process doesn’t involve fire and a chimney so there’s no particulate loss!
These bones are taken out of the chamber and air-dried. They are extremely brittle, and are processed into a powdery consistency, much like the ashes that you might be familiar with in traditional flame cremation.