An Ohio University professor has created a catalyst that can extract hydrogen from urine. And that means, according to Wired’s Autotopia, Botte has figured out how to power a car with pee.
Garardine 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 litres 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.”
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