6 Hours of 'Electricity Generated' by a Liter of Urine

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By Afza Fathima | June 23, 2014 1:28 PM EST

Four teenage girls, Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin and Bella Eniola, have experimented on a liter of urine placed in their generators, apparently getting six hours of electricity.

This experiment will be interesting to those who wait to get gas for their generators after Hurricane Sandy. They displayed their invention at the Maker Faire in Lagos, Nigeria. The working of the urine-powered generator has been explained, as cited in the Maker Faire Africa Web site. 

a. Hydrogen is separated as the urine is put into the electrolytic cell.

b. Similar to the use for outdoor barbecue grills for purification, the hydrogen goes into a water filter and then into a gas cylinder.

c. The filtered hydrogen is pushed out by the gas cylinder into another cylinder containing borax, a natural mineral commonly used in detergent to remove moisture. 

d. In the final step, hydrogen is pushed into a power generator.

A major risk factor is that hydrogen could explode. As a safety measure, one-way valve was used by the girls throughout their device. Although the idea of using urine as fuel isn't new, the girls came up with a practical way to put it into action. An average household can appreciate this invention.

After the Hurricane Sandy,  power generators are used more often in Africa, especially during an emergency.

The Maker Faire Africa Web site noted, "Power outages happen multiple times a day in Lagos, so all those who can afford a backup generator have one."

Gerardine Botte, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University, said, "It takes more energy to extract hydrogen from urine than you end up getting in return as electricity. At first glance, they're not having a net gain in energy. But I think it's important to say that these little girls, trying to do something like this, deserve a lot of credit. At forward operating bases, the main needs are water and fuel.

"With this project, they're doing both: using less energy to reutilize water sources. You will never get more energy out than you put in," she added.

"But it is a unique and elegant way to treat urine waste, which will allow you to co-generate electricity. At Ohio University, where there are about 22,000 students, if we would collect the urine and produce hydrogen, we would be able to produce enough electricity to perhaps power about 100 to 150 residential houses for a year, continuously," she noted.

To know more about the project, visit the Forbes Web site.

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