Finding new uses for urine.
Urine could hold the secret to low cost energy, university boffins have revealed.
Researchers have developed a system to test whether it can be used in fuel cells as an alternative to flammable hydrogen or toxic methanol.
The work at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, concentrates on urea, or carbamide, a mass-manufactured fertiliser and major component in human and animal urine.
The new Carbamide Power System could offer a non-toxic, low-cost, easily transportable alternative, academics said…
Urea solution is increasingly used in heavy goods vehicles to reduce harmful emissions, so a global infrastructure is in place.
Shanwen Tao and his research partner Rong Lan have been awarded a £130,000 grant to develop their prototype.
They see a future for the fuel cells in submarines, the military and power generation in remote areas such as deserts and islands. It could also be used to reprocess waste water, with electricity as a by-product.
Dr Tao said: “Growing up in rural eastern China. I was aware of the use of urea as an agricultural fertiliser. When I became a chemist and was looking at fuel cell development, I thought of using it in the process.
“We are only at prototype stage at present, but if this renewable material can be used as a commercially viable and environmentally friendly energy source, then we will be absolutely delighted, and many people around the world will benefit.”
The university described fuel cells as electrochemical devices which convert chemical energy into electricity with heat generated as a by-product, without the need for combustion.
Traditional fuel cells usually involve hydrogen or methanol at one side and oxygen or air at the other, separated by a specialised ionic-conducting membrane.