Cool idea rides again

Charles Cowling

 

This is a tale of freeze-dried disposal. First, a bit of backstory: 

The method of preparing a body for disposal by freeze-drying was invented in the US by schoolteacher Philip Backman. He patented it in 1978, and that patent has now expired. Backman’s proposed method of reducing the body to particles left a little to be desired (I have emphasised the key passage in bold):

“A further step entails subjecting the intact, frozen body to fractionalizing means reducing same to a particulate state … Existing mechanical means such as that used in the reduction of organic or inorganic substances may be utilized in this step. By way of example, a hammer mill may be utilized.”

And then there was Promession, the brainchild of Susanne Wiigh-MäsakPromessa’s breakthrough was to develop a process whereby a dead body can be reduced to particles by means, not of  hammer mill, but by gentle vibration. It was, apparently, a scientific breakthrough and, more important by far, it was an aesthetic breakthrough. 

Promessa has yet, so far as we know, to demonstrate the science and there are even those who doubt whether it has been done. When Promessa UK pulled out of the enterprise in March 2012, this is what they said: 

Promessa UK is not comfortable with the lack of progress in the development of Promession technology by Promessa Organic AB. In Promessa UK’s professional opinion and after a lengthy period of due diligence Promessa UK believes Promession is still at concept stage.

Following in the footsteps of Promessa came Cryomation. After extensive research they found that the only way they could reduce a freeze-dried body was by robust means. As the leader of the team told me a few years back, “The human body is a tough piece of kit.” As I understand it, they still have their sights set on the human market. 

And now we have ecoLegacy. Led by Tony Ennis (pictured above), the ecoLegacy process involves not freezing the body but cooling it, and then reducing it to powder using pressure waves. 

We’ve spoken to ecoLegacy and they assure us they’ve done the science. 

We’ve spoken to others, who have looked impressed. 

One to watch, perhaps. 

 

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Mary
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Mary

So what’s the latest news on the notion of Promession and where are Peter and Susanne Wiigh-Masak these days? Promession has got a mention in the 13th programme of law reform in the potential project on “A modern framework for disposal of the dead” but the latest news from the Swedish press in 2015 would appear to be this – forgive the rough google translation – and it doesn’t sound too promising (forgive the pun please) : Two frozen bodies left Jönköping Four of the bodies stored since 2007 at the crematorium in Jönköping for funeral burial freezing have now… Read more »

Mary
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Mary

Oh where to start. At least philip backmann was honest about his impractical idea of super cooling a corpse and then breaking it up into small pieces. It would take quite some force and to what end? Let’s hope no one in Britain is duped and puts one of these frozen and smashed up methods into their will as they could just sit there waiting in a freezer for many years. This is exactly what happened in Sweden before promessa went bust closely followed by the personal bankruptcy of Susanne wiigh Masak and her husband. It always pays to check… Read more »

Mary
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Mary

Do you think you could link this article through somehow to “the future’s bright” and “promession and cryomation go head to head at the ICCM”. what I don’t understand is how all these funeral trade people sit there at these various trade conventions over the years and hear talks over many years about this idea of a human body being easy to fragment at super-low temperatures, skull and all. If it was that “green” and easy to do so, and then it all could be dried out and composted cheaply, easily, hygienically and in such an easy and “green” way… Read more »

Richard
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Richard

Promessa isn’t yet credible but resomation will undoubtedly replace cremation in the year ahead. Personally, I wouldn’t be seen dead in a resomator or cremator but resomation’s victory over cremation is assured.

Linda
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I have followed this concept with some intrest for some time, I know many people, me included who dotn’t like the idea of burial or cremation therefore welcome any advances in bringing another solution to fruition. Good luck to anyone who has the money to develop it, hopefullt when my time comes there will be an alternative, I quite like the thought of freeze dried and shaken sounds like a cocktail!