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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions

Pee-Power for Hydrogen Power

Urine is the latest waste material to be discovered holding back secrets of hydrogen power.

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I feel like a child fixated on my bodily productivity :-) but this story is intriguing because human waste management has a major impact on our fresh water supply when water is used as a transport method... indoor plumbing and sewer systems.

Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University is developing a hydrogen energy technology that turns urine into hydrogen energy. Read the full story at MSNBC.

Chemically binding hydrogen to other elements (like oxygen) to create water, makes it easier to store and transport, but releasing the hydrogen when it's needed usually requires financially prohibitive amounts of electricity.

By attaching hydrogen to nitrogen, Botte and her colleagues observed that they can store hydrogen without extreme conditions, and then release it with less electricity, 0.037 Volts instead of the 1.23 Volts needed for water.

Urea, a major component of urine, contains hydrogen bonded to nitrogen. When you stick a special nickel electrode into a pool of urine, apply an electrical current -- hydrogen gas is released.

Botte's current prototype measures 3x3x1 inch and can produce up to 500 milliwatts of power but the scientists are actively commercializing larger versions.

A urine-powered fuel cell vehicle could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon. They are estimating that a refrigerator-sized unit could produce a kilowatt of energy for about $5,000.

Waste products from agricultural farms could be used to produce the energy needed to run the farm and livestock farmers who are required by law to pool their animals' waste, could use large scale prototypes to turn urine into power.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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