A professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University, Gerardine Botte, has developed a technology that can generate hydrogen fuel from urine.
Professor Botte has taken advantage of the fact that urine contains two compounds that can be a good source of hydrogen: ammonia and urea. If an electrode is placed in wastewater, and a gentle current is applied to it, hydrogen gas is produced that can in turn power a fuel cell.
The system works in a similar way to the electrolysis of water, which can be used to create hydrogen for fuel cells, but less energy is required to release hydrogen atoms using ammonia and urea.
The pee to hydrogen technology has the best potential in places where large numbers of people congregate, such as airports, train stations, sports stadiums and office buildings. Botte has worked out that 200 to 300 people could generate about 2 kilowatts of power.
This technology could also address pollution involved in animal feedlots. Apparently, urine produced by 1,000 cows could generate 40 to 50 kilowatts of power.
A company called E3 Clean Technologies has been started-up to commercialize the pee-power technology. The company hopes to have the first “Greenbox” prototype ready by the end of 2012.