Using a nickel-based electrode, 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.
One molecule of urea, a major component of urine, contains four atoms of hydrogen bonded to two atoms of nitrogen. If you place a special nickel electrode into a pool of urine and apply an electrical current, hydrogen gas is released.
A urine-powered vehicle could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon.
Using urine as a source of fuel may sound like a bit of a stretch, but it’s actually quite ingenious. It’s based on the use of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe.
Hydrogen has been called “a renewable, versatile, simple sustainable domestic energy” because it can be produced from tap water to generate power for homes and cars.
However, one of the hurdles facing this alternative fuel source is that hydrogen gas requires high pressure and low temperatures to be stored. It becomes somewhat easier to store when it’s binded to oxygen to create water, but even then it still requires large amounts of electricity to be released.
The Ohio University scientists who developed the urine technology found that attaching hydrogen to nitrogen in urine allowed it to be stored without the strict requirements of ordinary hydrogen, and allowed it to be released with less electricity (0.037 volts versus 1.23 volts needed for water).
Ultimately they are working on developing a small-scale prototype for the average consumer; a urine-powered vehicle could travel 90 miles per gallon, and soldiers could have access to fuel even while on the battlefield. But the first prototype likely to be released, in as little as six months, could change the way modern-day farming works.
By collecting urine from livestock, which is right now a major source of pollution, farmers could produce more than enough energy to power their farms.
Are We Nearing the Beginning of the Hydrogen Economy?
The Hydrogen Economy is the term used to mark the shift from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas to hydrogen. The vision of a Hydrogen Economy is one of an unlimited source of fuel that would be used to generate energy without releasing carbon and other pollutants into the air.
As Darshan Goswami, M.S., P.E. said:
“Hydrogen has the potential to do for the energy revolution what the computer and the Internet have done for the information revolution. Fuel cells are considered the “microchip of the hydrogen age,” the key to abundant energy from secure, renewable resources.
Ultimately, fuel cells supplying homes, businesses, and industries could be linked to a national power grid allowing surplus power at one location to be transferred to areas experiencing power shortages.”
It’s clear that we have to stop this unnecessary reliance on oil and fossil fuels, and the Hydrogen Economy offers many advantages in doing so, such as:
- Greater fuel efficiency
- Elimination of pollution caused by fossil fuels
- Elimination of greenhouse gases
- Elimination of economic dependence on Middle East oil reserves
Alternative Energy and Fuel Options to Keep an Eye Out For
There are many renewable energy and fuel source alternatives out there and plenty of technical innovations are cropping up even beyond hydrogen. One of the most promising that may make an impact sooner than you think is solar power.
There is enough energy in the sunshine that falls on the earth in less than one hour to satisfy the energy needs of the entire human race for ONE YEAR. About the only downside to solar energy is how to store that power for use at night or on cloudy days, and a new technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) appears to have solved that problem elegantly.
The process, which is loosely based on plant photosynthesis, uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. When needed, the gases can then be re-combined in a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity whether the sun is shining or not.
You may also be interested to know that cars that run on compressed air, and do not require a cooling system, ignition system, carburetor, nor the hundreds of moving parts included in a standard gasoline motor, are already in the works.
According to an article in Popular Mechanics, Zero Pollution Motors -- the U.S. licensee for Moteur Developement Int. (MDI) -- expects to produce the world’s first air-powered car for the United States by late 2009 or early 2010