The “P Cell” is Exactly What You Might Suspect

[Josh Starnes] had a dream. A dream of a device that could easily and naturally be activated to generate power in an emergency, or just for the heck of it. That device takes in urea, which is present in urine, and uses it to generate a useful electrical charge. [Josh] has, of course, named this device the P Cell.

An early proof of concept uses urine to create a basic galvanic cell with zinc and copper electrodes, but [Josh] has other ideas for creating a useful amount of electricity with such a readily-available substance. For example, the urea could be used to feed bacteria or micro algae in a more elegantly organized system. Right now the P Cell isn’t much more than a basic design, but the possibilities are more than just high-minded concepts. After all, [Josh] has already prototyped a Hybrid Microbial Fuel Cell which uses a harmonious arrangement of bacteria and phytoplankton to generate power.

[Josh]’s entries were certainly among some of the more intriguing ones we saw in the Power Harvesting Challenge portion of The Hackaday Prize, and we’re delighted that his ideas will be in the running for the Grand Prize of $50,000.

Assess Your Output with a Cheap DIY Urine Flowmeter

Some things about the human body are trivial to measure. Height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, temperature — these are all easily quantifiable with the simplest of instruments and can provide valuable insights into our state of health. Electrical activity in the heart and the brain can be captured with more complex instruments, too, and all manner of scopes can be inserted into various orifices to obtain actionable information about what’s going on.

But what about, err, going? Urine flow can be an important leading indicator for a host of diseases and conditions, but it generally relies on subjective reports from the patient. Is there a way to objectively measure how well urine is flowing? Of course there is.

The goal for [GreenEyedExplorer]’s simple uroflowmeter is simple: provide a cheap, easy to use instrument that any patient can use to quantify the rate of urine flow while voiding. Now, we know what you’re thinking — isn’t liquid flow usually measured in a closed system with a paddlewheel or something extending into the stream? Wouldn’t such a device for urine flow either be invasive or messy, or both? Rest assured, this technique is simple and tidy. A small load cell is attached to an ESP8266 through an HX711 load cell amp. A small pan on the load cell receives urine while voiding, and the force of the urine striking the pan is assessed by the software. Reports can be printed to share with your doctor, and records are kept to see how flow changes over time.

All kidding aside, this could be an important diagnostic tool, and at 10€ to build, it empowers anyone to take charge of their health. And since [GreenEyedExplorer] is actually a urologist, we’re taking this one seriously.

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NASA Wants SpacePoop Hackers

NASA is looking for a few good men and women to solve an upcoming problem. Astronauts will soon be venturing outward beyond Earth orbit. If the spacecraft cabin should depressurize then they’ll have to put on their spacesuits and may have to keep them on for up to six days. During that time something will have to handle the resulting urine, fecal, and menstrual waste, all without the astronauts use of their hands. And that’s where you come in.

NASA is having a space poop challenge. The current system of an adult diaper won’t last six days. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to design a system that will move the waste away from the skin where it can cause infection. Continue reading for the rather unique requirements.

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They Put the “P” in Power

Fuel cells are like batteries, sort of. Both use chemical reactions to produce electricity. The difference is that when a battery exhausts its reactants, it goes dead. In some cases, you can recharge it, but you typically get less energy back with each recharge. A fuel cell, on the other hand, will make electricity as long as you keep supplying fuel. What kind of fuel? Depends on the cell, but most often it is hydrogen or methanol.

Researchers at the University of Bath, Queen Mary University of London, and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory want to use a different fuel: urine. According to the researchers, that’s one resource we will never deplete. The fuel cell is a type of microbial fuel cell which is nothing new. The breakthrough is that the new cell is relatively inexpensive, using carbon cloth and titanium wire. Titanium isn’t usually something you think of as cheap, until you realize that conventional cells usually use platinum.

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Urine Territory Marking, Now for Humans!

Although Dogs and other animals love to mark their territory with urine, this technique has been generally ignored by human beings. Despair no more, fellow homo sapiens, we have now developed the ability to check-in on foursquare through your information stream. This device is descriptively called “Mark your Territory.”

Although this is not currently available to buy in stores (although apparently $10,000 will get you one built), [Instructables] user [blorgggggg] has furnished directions on building your own. The system is powered by an Arduino and an Android phone. The urine tags have both a pointed end for sticking in grass and the like, and a sticky back to be used in a “more urban settings.”

The video after the break gives quite a bit of background trying to justify such a system in terms of communicating in the physical world, animals, et cetera, but it’s doubtful that this excuse will get you out of a public urination charge.  You’ve been warned.

Automated hose keeps cats from watering you

Commenter [TheCreator] reminded us of this fantastic video from [Craig Turner] who you may recognize from SBS’s Top Gear Australia Video Competition.  You see, [Craig] has been struggling for some time with the problem of neighborhood cats relieving themselves pretty much all over his stuff. Through surveillance he identified (and named) around 9 separate cats sauntering into his yard during the wee hours of the night.  The only issue now was to humanely discourage them from entering his yard.

The best solution, in this case, was a simple spray from the garden hose, but who is going to stay up all night to watch for cats? [Craig]’s ’75 Galant happens to have aftermarket door locks. These typically contain a simple powerful 12V actuator that will push or pull when given current. The actuator is strong enough, and has enough travel, to depress your typical garden sprayer handle. The lock actuators even include enough mounting hardware to tack everything together.  The only irreversible part of the hack appears to be the hole drilled into the sprayer’s handle.

The job of cat detection is handled with a PIR sensor (sourced from his home security system) and a paper towel tube to narrow the detector’s field of view. Placed at animal height the PIR detector works like a trip line, and flips a relay connected to an array of devices:  A bright LED lamp, a DSLR set to take several quick photos of the victim, An HD video camera, and the sprayer solenoid.  This whole rig is placed at a convenient choke point and hilarity ensues! A schematic is included in the video but is pretty difficult to interpret, we transcribed it for you. Some details are unclear but essentially a few relays are stapled together to provide either high or low switching signals.

Check out the video, [Craig]’s schematic, and our interpretation of [Craig]’s schematic after the jump!

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We know “Mario’s Early Years” was a let down, but this takes it a bit too far.

[JJ Hendricks] wrote in to tell us about his SNES cartridge urinal. The fully functional urinal is constructed with 40 SNES cartridges and sealed up with polyurethane. The base of the whole operation is actually not a puddle of festering urine, but instead poured polyurethane that ensures proper flow through the drain. You heard right, this urinal actually flushes! As a bit of consolation [Hendricks] plainly states in the directions:No good games were damaged in the making of this video. All the video games used in this urinal were already broken or worthless sports games”. We have featured some SNES cartridge readers before, so now you have something to do with all the leftover hardware! Gross.

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