Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Why new toilets that separate liquids from solids might just be in your future.


Toilets That Separate Pee For Urea-Hydrogen Fuel Harvesting Already on Market

Why new toilets that separate liquids from solids might just be in your future.

Earlier this year, our sister blog: Gas 2.0 covered the use of using pee for fuel after a breakthrough at Ohio University published this summer in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal, Chemical Communications.

Ohio University researcher Gerardine Botte had developed a catalyst that could extract hydrogen fuel from urine much more cheaply than water.


The breakthrough was important because water is increasingly scarce in many regions, and will get even more so, the worse that climate change gets.

And that means that we won’t be able to spare water to make fuel. And that’s why a specialty new waterless toilet that separates liquids from solids might just be in your future.

Botte developed a cheap new nickel-based electrode that was able to selectively and efficiently oxidize urea to break apart the molecule to get hydrogen out. Not only was the electrode cheaper, but by using urea instead of water, she got twice the hydrogen at a third of the effort.

Only 0.37 volts were needed to strip urea’s four hydrogen atoms because they are not as tightly stuck together as the two hydrogen atoms in water. So: hydrogen fuel breakthrough.

But first urine needs to be separated.  And harvested. And put on the market.

Here’s how that could happen. We would use toilets that don’t use water, a valuable resource. Instead we would separate out those valuable liquids from solid wastes. Sound implausible? As Gar Smith at Alternet describes this idea today:

“That is not such a strange idea: The human body is designed to send solid and liquid wastes in opposite directions. One immediate result of separating pee from poo is the elimination of the unpleasant aromas associated with the traditional outhouse.

While installing waterless toilets in high-rise apartments might raise certain engineering challenges, “urine-separating dry toilets” are being adopted around the world — from South Africa, Peru, Cuba, and India.”

That’s all very well for them, but what about for us in the US?

It turns out that a company called Natures Head has already developed a toilet that separates liquids and solids. While they had developed it to meet the hygiene needs of US boaters and RV-ers – their toilet has real application in pee harvesting, because it’s a dry toilet that separates liquids from solids, and composts the solid waste with the addition of peat moss.

They invented it because separating the liquids and solids helps boats and RVs not smell. The longer you let a composting toilet sit, the better it will smell when it’s time to empty it. That’s because the longer a composting toilet sits the more time it has to turn waste back into earth.

But it’s the urea that’s the real gold. Maybe that company should revamp its branding and marketing; spruce up the website a little to reach beyond the RV customer to the larger world. Because that humble little bucket of harvested pee in the front? You can pour that on the garden, because it makes great fertilizer.

Or you would store it in a larger bucket in the garage for routine kerbside recycling pickup to be recycled into the fuel of the future.

Image: Natures Head

Source: Alternet

More from Susan Kraemer: Journalists on Twitter


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

Assuming that hydrogen is going to be anywhere as cheap per unit of energy as natural gas, coal, or petroleum fuel products is deeply...

Clean Power

If Europe continues down the path of making hydrogen a mainstay of heat and transportation, they will invest in highly inefficient and ineffective infrastructure,...

Clean Power

Killer combo of offshore wind and green hydrogen indicates that rapid decarbonization is achievable, if policy makers do the right thing.

Clean Power

Green hydrogen is going down in cost, and concentrating solar power could pick up the pace by ditching electrolysis in favor of a thermochemical...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.