Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Urine: fuel of the future

Now, many of you know that I'm always enamored of what useful things we can do with waste products and human waste is no exception. Why throw away a good thing?

I've discussed in the past the utility of urine in providing nitrogen to plants and even hosted a challenge for those who wanted to try it out (all the gory details of using your urine as a fertilizer are on the challenge page).

Well, it turns out that the hydrogen content of urine could save our hides. Research done at Ohio University has concluded that urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists there.

From the article on Organic Consumers Association's website:
Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. "One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses," said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. "Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel."

Pee power is based on hydrogen, the most common element in the universe but one that has resisted efforts to produce, store, transport and use economically...

One molecule of urea, a major component of urine, contains four atoms of hydrogen bonded to two atoms of nitrogen. Stick a special nickel electrode into a pool of urine, apply an electrical current, and hydrogen gas is released.

Indeed. In fact, a pee-powered vehicle could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon. And, apparently, converting pee to hydrogen takes only 3% of the energy than converting water does. Now, that's something I can get behind. Or whatever the proper preposition is here.

But don't start stocking up now. Initially, urine collected from farms would provide the right scale for mass production. Then again, who knows, maybe you'll be seeing home urinefuel processing kits sooner rather than later.

Check out the article for more details.

14 comments:

Julie Artz said...

Now if they can figure out a way to do a built-in toilet in these pee-powered cars so that you don't have to stop every hour to let your toddlers pee, that would be the PERFECT energy solution!!!

Farmer's Daughter said...

So the hydrogen is from the urea... what happens to the rest of the urine? My concern is that urine contains pharmaceuticals, etc. Is the waste just sent to the wastewater treatment plant? (What is it with my obsession with sewage?)

Crunchy Chicken said...

Abs - Well, I would imagine that the practical application would involve sending the rest of the waste fluid to a treatment plant.

Although I suspect that large farms don't process their waste products much now, so perhaps it won't be too much different than whatever they currently do...

Speaking of practical applications, I think a built-in booster seat with flip-up toddler toilet is an awesome idea. You should go patent it right now, Julie!

Greenpa said...

hah! interesting, to be sure. buuuuuut.

Urea is hugely valuable as fertilizer. If it's not recycled to plants, then somebody somewhere is going to take natural gas- and use it to manufacture- more urea.

The value of the readily available N for plants is really quite high; it needs to be compared to the value of the hydrogen. The other product of the electrolysis is nitrogen gas, yes? Not in short supply.

Reminds me of the company that has already built a power plant to burn- turkey poop. Most of the energy released comes from burning the nitrates- generated at great expense on the other side of the world, to feed plants, to feed turkeys....

Sigh.

Amber said...

This is a really interesting idea. While I'm sure there are drawbacks, there are drawbacks to all the oil we're burning right now. Urine is widely available and renewable - as an idea, I think it at least deserves further investigation.

And I will so invest in the toddler-to-tank product. ;)

Adrienne said...

Is there enough pee in the world to serve as fuel *and* fertilizer? I don't know.

Natalie said...

Liking this very much... even the many puns that will be irresistible...

Alison Kerr said...

That's both funny and interesting. Makes the mind think, or maybe boggle! Too bad urea may soon be taken over by big business - maybe we'll need a permit to go potty some day so that nothing is wasted.

Sandy said...

I have seen VAST amounts of urin come out of the cows at the farm, and the goats are no slackers either. It drains away through the natural filtration system of soil and stone, with all the goodies being used by grass and plants on the way. Why should ours be any different? And by the way, human urine helps keep the deer out of your garden. Just sayin'...pretty good stuff. And fuel, to boot? Life's awesome!

Sandy said...

oops...urinE, not urin.

Cave-Woman said...

Sounds interesting...but how would it smell?

The Simpleton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Simpleton said...

Now that's a whiz-bang idea.

With respect to the "is there enough?" question, most of the urine produced in this country is not currently going toward fertilizing. Granted, perhaps it should be, but it's not. I can imagine that in local urban economies, it would make more sense to, uh, stream urine toward power generation, and in local rural/agri economies toward fertilizer. But maybe in the future that distinction won't even make sense.

eatclosetohome said...

Roman laundries used to put out pots for passersby to make a deposit (the resulting ammonia helped get the clothes clean). I wonder if gas stations will have similar, er, night deposit tubes?

LinkWithin