A study on eco-fuel on Ohio State University in order to find alternative energy sources has driven a new breakthrough of alternative energy enough to solve the ongoing vehicles’ fuels problem.
Botte, one of the researcher at the Ohio University, found that human’s Urine could further broken down into hydrogen using electrolysis.
The research has shown that electrolyzing urine for hydrogen is easier as compared to generating hydrogen from the water, hydrogen molecules aren’t as tightly held as in water. It takes 0.37 volts to breaks down urea, which is significantly less than the 1.23 volts required to split water into hydrogen.
Due to high cost of renewable energy generating system such as photovoltaic cells, automobile manufacturers has been driven to look towards a cheaper, eco-friendly, which also presented in abundance of waste, as an ideal alternative energy resources, and besides hydrogen, some of the new breakthrough is the Air Powered Car which already under run testing in France.
Being the most abundant energy in the universe, hydrogen has always been a fantasy for car manufacturers as a cheap green fuel which doesn’t bring any performance or health issues along as well. However, the conventional process used to generate hydrogen from water and finally transporting it, aren’t as “eco-friendly” as the fuel itself is.
The researchers believe that the technology can be scaled-up to generate hydrogen while cleaning up the effluent from sewage plants. The only downside urea is that it gets converted into ammonia by bacteria very quickly, which could limit the usefulness of the technique.
The group initially tested their process with ‘synthetic’ urine made of dissolved urea, but also showed that the process works just as well with real human urine. ‘It took us some time to get clearance to work with human urine – which held up publication of the research,’ says Botte.
According to Botte, currently available processes that can remove urine from water are expensive and inefficient. Urea naturally hydrolyses into ammonia before generating gas phase ammonia emissions. These emissions lead to the formation of ammonium sulphate and nitrate particulates in the air, which cause a variety of health problems including chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks and premature death.
The group are currently conducting long term stability studies on their electrolysis systems, as well as conducting computational experiments to better understand the mechanisms at work.
Bruce Logan, an expert in energy generation from wastewater and director of Pennsylvania State University’s H2E Center and Engineering Environmental Institute, applauded Botte’s efforts in developing a more energy efficient way of producing hydrogen than splitting water. However, he did caution that urea gets converted very quickly into ammonia by bacteria, which could limit the usefulness of the technique.
However, Logan does feel that it would be a good idea to start saving up our urine – although not for the hydrogen. ‘You have to remember about the P [phosphorus] in pee – globally we need to start thinking about conserving phosphorus for fertiliser, because, just like oil, one day the deposits are all going to run out and we need to start building phosphorus recycling into our infrastructure,’ he says.