November 9, 2012
African Teenagers Use Pee Power To Generate Electricity
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
We may not always have access to the finer things in life, such as food, clean water or electricity, but no matter where we are in any imagined apocalyptic scenario, we will always have our urine.Assuming, of course, that there´s at least enough water for us to transform into urine. The devil is in the details, after all.
Humans have always tried to turn something bountiful and common into something wonderful or essential. Take alchemy, for example, or the old wives tale that dirty diapers are great for the complexion. It is in this spirit that four teenage girls from Africa have developed a generator that is powered by — you guessed it — urine.
These bright young girls showed off their new generator at the Maker Faire Africa in Lagos, Nigeria and made quite a splash.
The urine is placed in an electrolytic cell that separates hydrogen from the rest of the urine. The hydrogen then moves through a water filter to be purified. This filtered hydrogen is then pushed into the gas cylinder.
Next, the gas cylinder pushes the hydrogen into another cylinder of liquid borax, removing moisture from the hydrogen gas. Now filtered and freed of any excess moisture, this pee-turned-fuel is put into the generator. According to the Maker Faire Africa site, 1 liter (2 pints, 34 ounces) of liquid gold can provide up to 6 hours of electricity.
The website is very careful to mention, however, that although they´ve put some safety features in place, this generator still isn´t the safest way to produce electricity, what with all the hydrogen and all.
To mitigate this risk, the girls have used one-way valves to protect against any backflow.
This generator is clearly more about the potential of the idea itself rather than any attempt to get the device into commercial production straight away. For example, the blog doesn´t mention how the electrolytic cell is powered or if the use of this cell negates the amount of energy produced.
Of course, this wouldn´t be the Internet without a healthy dose of skepticism, and one blog in particular has a series of questions about whether a pee-powered generator is even possible.
As Nathan Lee points out in his blog, the photos show the canisters where the urine is supposedly filtered, yet there is no actual filter in the system. Secondly, the gas bottle that the girls are using looks potentially harmful. If the girls are taking necessary precautions to prevent a hydrogen explosion, they might have wanted to use a tank with less rust, and maybe placed some clamps on the hoses.
Finally, that electrolytic cell, or large battery, appears to be hooked up to the generator. Could the two be powering one another? The blog never says.
The blog is short on many details, especially those who want to know precisely how this machine works. For now, it appears as if some teenage girls have had a great idea and their efforts have been awarded. Should it be true, let us never squash their efforts. After all, if this is true and if the machine can be scaled, there´s a future of completely self-powered bars and pubs in our future, and that´s a very good thing.