The media is awash with stories of dwindling oil supplies. Scientists have been announcing that the Earth only has about 50 years (if that) of oil left, which makes finding fuel alternatives more important than ever.
One alternative is hydrogen fuel cells, but they are expensive and no network has yet been established for customers to change out empty cells for charged ones.
I regularly travel and have fun in RV’s; I will be living in one full-time very shortly, which means that finding sources of energy when I’m boondocking (living without electrical grid connections) very important. Aside from solar panels charging house batteries, a generator is one of the items I will need to carry, but fuel is heavy and sometimes pricey.
Four young ladies, ages 14 and 15 have developed a generator that uses urine for fuel. They have produced up to six hours of electricity on a liter (approximately a quart) of urine. It was not specified if the urine was from human or animal sources, but I don’t think it matters.
The urine travels through an electrolytic cell that separates the hydrogen and the “waste” oxygen is expelled. The hydrogen is purified through a water filter and then fills a gas cylinder. The gas cylinder sends the hydrogen through a filter filled with liquid borax to remove any moisture and then goes to the generator motor, which produces electricity.
Although there is some speculation about the product’s safety, one has to remember these are young inventors who have not graduated high school yet. Their idea is spectacular and safety features such as pressure regulators can certainly be added by more experienced engineers.
Ohio University’s chemical engineer, Geraldine Botte, inventor of the urea electrolysis process, was interviewed by ABC news. She stated that the children are using two processes, first using electrolysis to separate hydrogen from the urine and then to use that hydrogen to produce electricity.
She also stated the process makes sense when used at waste treatment plants, which already collect urine and use electricity.
I believe we could see the technology used in waste treatment plants around the world, as the plants would produce their own power and have extra to sell to the grid. That would reduce the need for fossil fuels and solve some waste treatment problems at the same time.
The girl’s idea could be developed to create portable generator systems for use in remote areas, disasters, military deployments and more.
Given the talent of these four amazing young ladies, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Source: Staff Article, “A Urine Powered Generator,” Maker Faire Africa website, no date given
Source: John Roach, “African Girls Pee-powered Generator Raises Questions,” ABC news website, November 8, 2012
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse subjects and skills such as DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects, RV’ing and more.