Who would have ever thought that the term “piss-off” would connote an opportunity for the creation of fuel and energy? Well, these researchers did- researchers working on alternative sources of energy who have discovered the key to the use of fuels cells that will depend upon urine as a source of energy.
Chemistry postdocs Shanwen Tao and Rong Lan from Heriot-Watt University’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences in Edinburgh, are the first to have managed to create a clean source of energy that would depend upon urine, a system that would lead to the creation of electricity and clean water. However, the system that they have created, at best can be termed as a prototype device, and has the potential to be a leading generator of electricity in the future.
In most other cases where fuel cells are employed, the fuel cells depend upon hydrogen gas, which is highly flammable, or methanol, which is another toxic substance, in order to create electricity. However, this prototype model, created by Tao and Lan depends on urea, which is an organic chemical compound that is produced by the breaking down of protein in the body. Urea is also known as Carbamide, and has a great potential as a source of energy in the future because of various advantageous factors, such as its abundance, its non-toxic nature, the ease with which its be transported around and also its wealth in nitrogen.
The idea for the use of urea as a source of fuel came to the two students because of their early childhood in rural China. Tao and Lan had seen how urea was one of the main components that was used in the fertilizers for the fields. Christened as The Carbamide Power System, this prototype is capable of breaking urea from the urine into simpler parts, viz. water, nitrogen and CO2 and also leads to the generation energy in the form of electricity.
In most fuel cell research studies that have been carried out until now, the catalyst that has been of prime importance has had to have a precious metal such as platinum. However, the catalyst in The Carbamide Power System prototype, which is created by the so called, “Youtricity” research group is one that makes use of cheaper membranes, thus leading to the cost of the creation of electricity a lot lesser. The lesser the cost of the system, the more will be its popularity among people, and also lead to more units being used for different purposes.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has provided a grant of two hundred and three thousand dollars for the team to carry out further research and development on their field of study. When sufficient research and development is carried out, the objective of the researchers and the Research Council, will possibly be see a bright light of day, in not too long a time. The aim of the researchers is to take this technology to such a level where it can be employed for the powering of islands, deserts, and even submarines.
It is no surprise that municipalities around the world spend a great amount of money on clearing the urea content from their dirty water sources. A System where this urea could be directly incorporated into technologies for the manifestation of energies would greatly decrease the amount spent on the process otherwise.
A technology that is this new is for obvious reasons, not being displayed on full scale to the world. The components of this system have still been kept secret, as there is every possibility of the technologies being stolen. However, the researchers are showing positive responses to questions as to whether the technology and the prototype will be unveiled by the next year. In all surety, proper research on the subject would only lead to better, gleaner and safer electricity technologies.