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Urine a candidate for energy independence

We thought we were supposed to have fusion-power for our DeLorean by now but it perhaps urine-power is just around the corner instead. [Gerardine Botte] has been working on creating hydrogen from urine, the world’s most abundant waste product. The voltage needed to break apart the urea atoms is less than half that of water, and the way we see it, you’ve had the added benefit of already using the water once before creating the fuel. [Gerardine] also makes the point that urine has phosphorus in it which could be another useful outcome of the process because it is needed as an agricultural fertilizer. Does this mean that you can repay your designated driver by fueling up his vehicle after a night at the bar? It’s probably better than doing the same for the battery of your cell phone.

Hackers produced the first vegetable-oil powered vehicles so we’re throwing down the challenge of producing the first pee-and-go automobile. Good luck and wash your hands when you’re done.

[Thanks Peter]

Comments

  1. Thomas says:

    That should stop people from trying to siphon your fuel with a garden hose and a gas can.

  2. mfsamuel says:

    best comment ever Thomas

  3. osgeld says:

    ha!

    anyway to the article, its nice that it takes less electricity than water, but the main thing would be, does it take less electricity to produce it than it can put out?, that is kind of a sticking point with fuel cell systems

  4. Wiggins says:

    @osgeld

    It’s not about the power you can get back out of the hydrogen you produce, it’s about the power it takes to compress that hydrogen to thousands of PSI to make it a feasible source of energy in a car.

  5. hoschi says:

    the golden age!

  6. Digital says:

    toasting in an epic bread. This thread has so much potential…

    I can’t wait to see what’s said next.

  7. “Does this mean that you can repay your designated driver by fueling up his vehicle after a night at the bar?” — LOL, love it!

  8. C.A. says:

    I am assuming that the urine in the jar is fake, otherwise whoever it is is in dire need of a doctor

  9. kirov says:

    but by any account accidentally drinking urine is far far better than accidentally drinking gasoline, being grossed out (or even sick) is far better than death

    the problem with hydrogen is you are essentially making your car into a bomb, the worst thing that can happen with gasoline driven cars is a fireball of death but that is surprisingly uncommon. A small leak in a hydrogen tank will lead to explosive results while leaks in gasoline tanks only make al gore cry.

    hydrogen doesn’t really seem that likely of a fuel storage source as it is horribly inefficient to produce, even when you use clean solutions such as wind/solar for the electricity. My money is on batteries.

  10. Charper says:

    Sorry, total waste of time.

    Take a look at how we produce ammonia on an industrial scale. I’ll give you a hint: OIL!

  11. spyder_21 says:

    not practical but nice idea. OK water is found everywhere, but how much can you really pee in 1 day’s time, I bet it would take you weeks to fill up your tank.

  12. kirov says:

    @spyder_21

    we’ll just have the fueling station hooked up to the nearest frat house

  13. SheeEttin says:

    Hah. reminds me of something I learned way back in Latin class. Urine was used for washing clothes, and the buildings in the city used for the washing had urinals on the outside for “donations”. Kind of a similar concept here. :P

  14. Tom says:

    @C.A.

    yellow urine doesn’t necessarily mean you are ill. You can get the same coloe by taking a multivitamin dose and then urinating a couple of hours later. Or if you don’t drink enough water while exercising on a hot day.

  15. HackerK says:

    @Tom

    Or try to have a few beet and check your pee later. ;)

  16. lol says:

    this idea is piss poor

  17. CR says:

    But what WASTE will be produced through powering our cars with our waste?

  18. beernutz says:

    The normal color of urine is pale yellow. Nothing wrong with that sample.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/urine-color/ds01026

  19. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    Ok, currently we have people driving around to restaurants asking for used vegetable oil to make biodiesel….

    If this…no….oh, my aching head.

  20. Pee-king says:

    Idea solved (somewhat.) Use a solar cell on top of a portapotty (enough voltage to assist electrolysis). Use one way valve for urinal to “capture” urine. Run Nitrogen and Hydrogen gas to compost heap (for fertilizing rest-stop flowers and trees). Save salt waste for “winter time”. It sounds crazy, but it just might work.

  21. brandon says:

    i had a friend that kept having to drop some guy’s tank cause he thought he was getting bad gas, it turned out after siphoning his gas by mouth he saw the guy pissing in the tank, he said he drank alot, it was like alchol, crazy old man.

  22. MyMe says:

    The first tank you use a M. mycoides genome in yeast and urea. The hydrogen is split from the urea. Then the second tank you use low pressure and inject hydrogen into the corncob-charcoaled briquettes inside that tank. That hydrogen is converted into electricity and runs the engine. You have a hydrogen-powered brewing machine with wheels. AKA a piss wagon… Find the nearest pub and refuel… Ballard Power Systems, ReliOn, FuelCell Energy.

  23. bar steward says:

    we finally have a use for the surplus milking machines from farmers driven out of buisness by the supermarket giants.

  24. nebulous says:

    @ SheeEttin
    More recently, it was used quite a bit in the production of leather.

  25. Pete says:

    that is a very small amount of urine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urine#Volume

  26. Hirudinea says:

    Well if you say its so inefficent to power cars it can be used to power sewage treatment plants, I assume they use electricity, piece of piss.

  27. Mike says:

    The cars will have fuel filler caps on the floor in the passenger compartment, and drinking and driving will be required.

  28. therian says:

    hydrogen is scam

  29. john says:

    i doubt that this would ever be enough to fully power a car(unless you have a large family), but this could be useful for home production of small Hydrogen fuel cells, these could be the future of AA and D batteries. you might even be able to power something like a scooter or segway

  30. AnthonyDi says:

    For all of you complaining that it takes more energy to convert the urine than you get out of hydrogen, have you considered how much energy it takes to refine gasoline? It doesn’t come out of the ground like that.

    Also gasoline is just as dangerous as hydrogen. Hydrogen at least dissipates quickly because of its low mass, while gas vapors linger.

  31. Nibiru says:

    I’m guessing in the future the toilet will sort out solid and liquid masses for a little burst of juice towards your home lol.

  32. Jon says:

    The major problem I see with this? Once urine leaves your body it ceases to be sterile. You couldn’t just piss in the gas tank or whatever and make it work, it would immediately start breaking down because of bacteria.

  33. Roberto says:

    Split the urea atoms?
    I would like to meet their isotopes.

  34. crazy_conspiracy_man says:

    Why are we still trying to make hydrogen? We have known since the mid 80s that there is an abundant supply of helium 3 on the moon. If you filled up the space shuttle with helium3 we could be almost oil free for a year! Ask yourself why we haven’t done really anything more with the moon since the 70s?

  35. gt says:

    “the problem with hydrogen is you are essentially making your car into a bomb” lets examine that for a minute.. they were using hydrogen in big blimps because it is what? oh yeah.. lighter than most other molecules in the soup we call air. When a leak happens from a hydrogen tank it doesnt create a bomb because the gas escapes rapidly upward. it create a jet flame skyward which is far safer than petroleum based gasses which are heavier than our soup we breath which means they(petroleum derived gasses)flood an area creating a bigger potential for explosive combustion. lrn2chemistry.

  36. Hip says:

    Surely they are just taking the piss… Will the back pressure be a full BAR or half a BAR?

  37. Necromant says:

    Well, Malahov’s talk is making some scientists restless. (For those who do not know – Malahov is a dumb ass on russian TV, who recently spoke about urine-therapy on his show)

  38. Leithoa says:

    @ AnthonyDi
    Sure it takes energy to pump and refine crude oil to gasoline/diesel/kerosene. But you still gain energy when it’s done on an industrial scale.

    Also gasoline is orders of magnitude more energy dense than hydrogen, which makes it convenient for mobile power. Whereas already mentioned you have to compress H2 to multiple thousands of psi in order to get the same range that 15 gallons of gas will get you. Never mind that under those pressures hydrogen reacts with most commonly used metals and causes ‘hydrogen embrittlement’ so you have to use fancy(read: expensive) reinforced fiber tanks in order to contain it long term.
    Neverminding the possibility of combustion should the tank leak, what about when some drunk flips his SUV 17 times on the highway, current gas tanks will gurgle out their contents lazily. What do you think will happen when a tank holding back 5kpsi hydrogen gets a crack in it. Even if the tank its self doesn’t fragment(there are some people who claim to have developed a tank that resists this) all that compressed hydrogen is gonna vent somewhere in a hurry.

  39. Munky says:

    Why hasn’t anybody brought up the fact that urine is approximately 95% water (give or take depending on liquid intake over a given period of time)…

    So… how efficient (or inefficient) would this actually be?

  40. bro says:

    I think some may overlook that it actually addresses two problems:
    – eases the “creation” of hydrogen
    – solves the piss-waste problem:

    Many people are unfortunately not aware of the fact that each piss takes 3-5 litres to flush it down on modern toilets!
    While this isn’t that much an issue in the ‘first’ world countries (e.g. US, countries i europe) it’s definitely a problem in some other countries, especially hotter regions.

    In these regions you often use solar cells (which happen to be far more efficient down there), split the urine into hydrogen and thus ‘conserve’ the solar power.

    And even if the world’s urine isn’t enough to power everything – it’s atleast a good contribution.

  41. Jehu says:

    BTW, if you are wondering what happens when the bacteria breaks down the urea in your urine, it converts it to ammonia which is actually flammable. Ammonia can also be electrolysed like urine into hydrogen and nitrogen which can then fuel the car.

    And yes, I have been looking into this for a few years.

    BRB, gotta take a leak…..actually I’m not kidding. I really do have to pee after reading all this.

  42. bro says:

    Count your pees ! – I bet especially we coffeine junkies have to pee quite often. (true for me ™)

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/08/04/ap/strange/main5214517.shtml — “pee in the shower day”

  43. therian says:

    @AnthonyDi
    “lets examine that for a minute.. they were using hydrogen in big blimps because it is what? oh yeah.. lighter than most other molecules in the soup we call air. When a leak happens from a hydrogen tank it doesnt create a bomb because the gas escapes rapidly upward. it create a jet flame skyward which is far safer than petroleum based gasses which are heavier than our soup we breath which means they(petroleum derived gasses)flood an area creating a bigger potential for explosive combustion. lrn2chemistry.”
    @gt
    “lets examine that for a minute.. they were using hydrogen in big blimps because it is what? oh yeah.. lighter than most other molecules in the soup we call air. When a leak happens from a hydrogen tank it doesnt create a bomb because the gas escapes rapidly upward. it create a jet flame skyward which is far safer than petroleum based gasses which are heavier than our soup we breath which means they(petroleum derived gasses)flood an area creating a bigger potential for explosive combustion. lrn2chemistry.”

    You both have no idea how hydrogen is stored, it need high pressure and even couple hours will be enough to make explosion, also thick tank is not the answer since most energy will be waited on carrying this additional weight. Try to drill a hole in lets say propane tank under pressure, gas wont escape thought small hole instead it will rip apart whole tank cutting off both you arms and head from torso, safer experiment: try to make a hole in inflated balloon without destroying it.

    There is no point to use hydrogen, you lost a lot in producing it from electricity, and it hard to store. The only advantage over accumulator is ability to use it in gas engine. And it worse for environment than gas, just think where electricity is coming from and since there is more loss in conversation more material is needed and more waist in production.

    For now before some super capacity batteries get invented the only reasonable alternative to gasoline is natural gas which by the way was used for long time in some Soviet cars.

    I will repeat again – hydrogen is scam directed at government by “researchers”

  44. therian says:

    *couple hours under sun during typical summer

  45. therian says:

    @bro
    “Many people are unfortunately not aware of the fact that each piss takes 3-5 litres to flush it down on modern toilets!
    While this isn’t that much an issue in the ‘first’ world countries (e.g. US, countries i europe) it’s definitely a problem in some other countries, especially hotter regions.”

    proof (cow piss shower)

    if you laugh you end up in hell

  46. urlax says:

    Well it’s not that big of a scam.

    the problem is we are running out of fuel.

    gasoline and natural gas (LPG) is made in millions of years. those carbon and hydrogen atoms were once in the air and plants. the plants used up CO2 and died, became oil.

    we don’t have the time to ‘make’ new gasoline. so either we go back to horse carriages or we try to invent some storage mechanism which stores energy from wind,water,sun or nuclear plants.

    so we can use batteries or chemical power to store this. we could even produce air pressure or something.

    chemical power isn’t that bad, doens’t discharge over time, higher power density possible, and ready when needed.

    so the safest and best option to create chemical energy is to split water molecules and combine 2*H2 and 02 back to H20. this reaction can produce electricity via a fuel cell or heat by burning. this is clean because it has no byproducts, and the energy can be produced in various ways, possibly clean.

  47. octel says:

    a better idea would be to reduce our dependence on personal (often single-occupancy) vehicles instead of trying to throw science at the problem

    the first world’s current lifestyle is completely unsustainable and must be abolished

  48. alex says:

    I’m pretty sure the first hacker to produce the first vegetable-oil powered vehicles was Rudolf Diesel

  49. James says:

    @alex – agreed, Diesels were initially designed for veg oil and then converted to run on dino oil.

    @Wiggins – doesn’t need compressing if it’s stored as hydrides (able to get 80% of the density of hydrogen compressed to 500bar) in solid form.

    @C.A. – that really isn’t THAT yellow.

  50. Franki says:

    Well, if urine’s gonna be a source of fuel, R Kelly’s gonna have a new business starting up!

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