Power Your Car With Pee

By | April 12, 2013

pee_jeep… A scientist at Ohio University has developed a catalyst capable of extracting hydrogen from urine. That’s right. Urine. Now you can fill one tank while draining another.

Gerardine Botte claims the device uses significantly less energy than is needed to extract hydrogen from water and says it could power hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the near future. Her electrolyzer uses a nickel-based electrode to extract hydrogen from urea (NH2)2CO, the main component in urine. Hydrogen is less tightly bound to the nitrogen in urea than to the oxygen in water, so the electrolyzer needs just 0.37 volts across the cell to oxidize the urea, according to Botte. That’s less than half the amount of energy in an AA battery and considerably less than the 1.23 volts needed to split water.

One of hydrogen’s biggest stumbling blocks to use as an alternative fuel is the amount of energy needed to produce it. And then there’s the matter of distributing it. Botte says her gadget eliminates such problems because it’s small enough to integrate into an automobile. Urine is also readily available — your body produces two to three liters of it each day, and it is the most abundant form of waste on the planet. We could treat waste water while fueling our cars.

“Urea is the same stuff we use to fertilize our flower beds. It’s a solid that dissolves in water and is therefore easy to move,” Botte told Wired.com. “An electrolyzer built into a car would eliminate the need for a hydrogen storage tank, and with the right partnership, I believe we could have pee-powered cars capable of 60 miles per gallon on the road within a year.”

Botte’s current electrolyzer prototype is about the size of a pair of CD jewel cases and can produce up to 500 milliwatts of power. That’s pretty small, but Ohio University has patented the technology and Botte says it could be scaled up to power hybrid and electric vehicles or anything else running on electricity.

“We are currently working on the chemistry of the electrolyzer,” she said. “The next step is the engineering, which should flow just fine. It would involve increasing the size of the electrolyzer, making it more efficient and testing its long-term stability.”

She says the cost of developing the technology for conventional cars would all depend on what’s powering the car. The electrolyzer would have to pull energy from a power source like a battery in order to produce hydrogen for a fuel cell. Botte also is examining how the electrolyzer could draw the power it needs from a solar panel. Hooking it up to a rooftop solar panel — like the one on the 2010 Toyota Prius — could increase efficiency as much as 40 percent, she said. …

via Power Your Car With Pee | Autopia | Wired.com

This story is from four years ago. Where is this technology now? I want to fill my Prius tank with something free.

… The utilization of wastewater for useful fuel has been gathering recent attention due to society’s need for alternative energy sources. The electrooxidation of urea found at high concentrations in wastewater simultaneously accomplishes fuel production and remediation of harmful nitrogen compounds that currently make their way into the atmosphere and groundwater. Pure hydrogen was collected in the cathode compartment at 1.4 V cell potential, where water electrolysis does not occur appreciably. It was determined that an inexpensive nickel catalyst is the most active and stable for the process.

Urine is the most abundant waste on Earth. The largest constituent of urine is urea, which is a significant organic source of H, C, O, and N. Despite the numerous benefits of using urea/urine for hydrogen production, there is not a single technology that directly converts urea to hydrogen.

In addition to sustaining hydrogen resources, such a process could denitrificate urea-rich water that is commonly purged into rivers, creeks, and tributaries from municipal wastewater treatment plants. Currently, nitrate concentration in these waters is regulated at 10 mg L, but available denitrification technologies are expensive and inefficient.

Converting urea to valuable products before it naturally hydrolyzes to ammonia, which generates gas-phase ammonia emissions and contributes to ammonium sulfate and nitrate formation in the atmosphere, will save billions of dollars spent each year on health costs. …


Here’s the method the girls in Africa used to make a urine generator:

  • Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which cracks the urea into nitrogen, water, and hydrogen.
  • The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
  • The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
  • This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
  • 1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity.

Where’s the web page showing me how to build one of these? I guess I’ll have to make it from all the clues I can find. I doubt I could make one to power a car, but perhaps I could power a radio, or even a laptop. Additional info of use:

… The nickel electrode is reusable, but what happens in a lot of electrochemical processes is that the surface (thin top layer) of the electrode gets used up. While [it] is possible to keep polishing the surface and using the metal over and over for a very long time, the rate at which the surface requires treatment would be one of the parameters in determining how feasible this process is.

.. Combined with the chicken feather storage tanks which can allow enough non pressurized hydrogen for a normal sized car to be stored and costs around $250 to make we have a very viable solution.

… Potentiostat to control voltage Nickel electrode (piece of nickel connected to a copper wire Counter electrode (typically a platinum wire connected to a copper wire) Reference electrode (typically silver/silver chloride) You can buy … these parts at your … electrochemical dealer such as Princeton Applied Research, Bio-Logic, Gamry Instruments [just Google potentiostat]€  – phys.org

Nano-sized nickel with primary particle size of 2–3nm has been successfully prepared for use as efficient anode catalysts in urea and urine fuel cells. XRD, SEM and TEM were used for characterisation of nano-sized nickel. Based on the previous communication, the performance of urea and urine fuel cells has been further improved when the relative humidity at the cathode was 100%. A maximum power density of 14.2mWcm‚àí2 was achieved when 1M urea was used as fuel, humidified air as oxidant. The performance of urine fuel cells operating above room temperature was also reported for the first time and a power density of 4.23mWcm‚àí2 was achieved at 60ˆžC indicating potential application in urea-rich waste water treatment.€  – link

Fuel cell electrodes made of nickel are 20 percent cheaper than those made of platinum. Since platinum counts for about one third of the cost of a fuel cell, replacing it with something 20% cheaper could lower the entire fuel cell’s price by a significant amount. – link

Let us know on YouTube or somewhere if you succeed in doing this.

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