Remember when I sang the praises of ass-powered electrical generation? Yeah, well, that’s just the half of the juice you’re flushing away. Or drinking as part of a bizarre training regimen. Gerardine Botte of Ohio University has been working on a method of pulling hydrogen out of urine for future fuel cells and Hindenburgs.
Tell ’em Chemistry World:
Botte says the idea came to her several years ago at a conference on fuel cells, where they were discussing how to turn clean water into clean power. ‘I wondered how we could do this better,’ she adds – so started looking at waste streams as a better source of molecules from which to produce hydrogen.
Urine’s major constituent is urea, which incorporates four hydrogen atoms per molecule – importantly, less tightly bonded than the hydrogen atoms in water molecules. Botte used electrolysis to break the molecule apart, developing an inexpensive new nickel-based electrode to selectively and efficiently oxidise the urea. To break the molecule down, a voltage of 0.37V needs to be applied across the cell – much less than the 1.23V needed to split water.
Awesome. To enable this technology, may I suggest we start designing facilities that take a cue from the urine-diverting latrines I was lucky enough to use down in the bateyes in the D.R.? Two processes, two routes for the gold.
I’m also interested to hear if this electrolysis process can be adapted to solar energy storage schemes or to use the viral scaffolding technique for splitting off hydrogen that was recently reported by MIT researchers. Picture it: every bathroom a power plant, every septic tank a goldmine.
Get ready kids. Your toilet handle’s about to start paying off better than a slot machine.