Here’s a way to ensure waste isn’t, well, wasted.
Four African girls just showed off a urine-powered generator at Maker Faire Africa, in Lagos. Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola and Faleke Oluwatoyin, 14, and Bello Eniola, 15, built the device, which uses an electrolytic cell to separate hydrogen out of urine, Maker Faire’s website explained.
The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder. The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas. This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
A liter of urine generates six hours of electricity.
While the system does have one-way valves for safety, the device is admittedly explosive.
I recently saw a cartoon of a guy pissing directly into a gas tank. Funny, but we may not be that far away. The concept of using urine for hydrogen isn’t a new idea.
Gerardine Botte, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University has developed a technology to generate hydrogen fuel from urine.
Botte says urine contains two compounds that could be a source of hydrogen: ammonia and urea. Place an electrode in wastewater, apply a gentle current, and voila: hydrogen gas that can be used to power a fuel cell. Ammonia and urea hold their hydrogen atoms less tightly than water does, so less energy is required to split them off.
Botte’s technology has the greatest potential for power generation in settings where large numbers of people gather – airports and sports stadiums, for example. An office building with 200 to 300 workers could generate 2 kilowatts of power, every drop in the bucket helps. Botte’s approach could address pollution associated with animal feedlots. The urine produced by 1,000 cows could generate 40 to 50 kilowatts of power, and rid the soil of all that noxious ammonia.
There is also A group of scientists in the UK, working on a fuel cell powered directly by urine. I hope they get it all together and perfected soon. I’d like to think that pee has power and cache. Waste Not Want Not is still part of my childhood vocabulary and an environmentally sound idea for today.