Consumer Technology

Published on November 8th, 2012 | by Chelsea


Urine-Powered Generator Created By African Teen Girls

November 8th, 2012 by  

Some renewable energy sources are more glamorous than others. Solar and wind are glamorous; biomass and biogas, not as glamorous. Perhaps one the least glamorous renewable resources — but superabundant — has recently been used to power a generator. “Urine” for a surprise as to the resource… Yup, it’s pee! (har har, bad joke)

Teenagers Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola have developed a urine-fueled generator that can provide six hours of electricity per one liter of pee. The young ladies showcased their invention at this year’s Maker Faire Africa in Lago, Nigeria.

Here’s how it works, according to The Next Web: “An electrolytic cell separates the urea into nitrogen, water and hydrogen. The hydrogen goes into a water filter purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder. The gas cylinder pushes the hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas. This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.” And voilà! Now you have electricity from pee.

The girls’ generator isn’t the first urine-powered invention — a few batteries have already been powered by pee.

I have to say, I’d much rather use urine as a power source than guzzle it as a health drink.

Image: Laboratory glassware via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is a former newspaper reporter who has spent the past few years teaching English in Poland, Finland and Japan. When she wasn't teaching or writing, Chelsea was traveling Europe and Asia, sampling spicy street food along the way.

  • Hans

    Urine is basically water with some carbon-nitrogen molecules in it. The latter contain a bit of energy that you could extract in different ways. But I don’t think it will be a lot.

    I agree with jonesy that a more technical article by a person with the scientific knowledge and skills to understand the process would be more useful than this copy and paste job.

    • Mike Spooner

      Oh, my bad, is this Scientific American? NO. So what if the article is a
      light read? I’m glad to know/interested in what high school kids around
      the world are trying to accomplish these days and this short article
      fulfills that. Could the article be more technical? Sure. Do I want it
      to be? Not really… I think the goal for this blog is to be accessible
      to many levels of readers like policy wonks, highbrow scientists and
      lowly guys like me just interested in what’s going on with green
      technology, Something for everybody, you know?

      • Hans

        To judge if this a useful technology, or just an overhyped high school experiment it is essential to know if the amount of useful energy coming out of the process is larger or smaller than the energy that was put in. So either the journalist has enough scientific knowledge to work this out themselves, or they ask an expert the right questions. After that they can then write about it on any level they like.

        • Hans

          I googled around a bit. Apparently the hydrogen in urea is weaker bonded than hydrogen in water. This means you have to put in energy to free the hydrogen from the urea, but theoretically this is less than the amount of energy that is released when burning the hydrogen (which gives you water as an endproduct). The question is of course if you can make the process so efficient that the potential energy yield is not lost in the intermediate steps.

          That was not to hard was it? It took me about 45 minutes of surfing to find this out. Is that too much effort for an article?

      • You nailed it, Mike. Thanks for the comment.

  • jonesey jonesey

    Wow, “six hours of electricity”! Is that how we measure electricity, in hours?

    Before posting something like this in the future, I recommend reading the original source material and the comments/questions/criticism there.

    This looks like an interesting science project for these students, and I’m sure they learned a lot, but it does not meet this site’s usual standards. Without technical details like an energy balance (i.e. how much electricity does it take to make the hydrogen, and how much electricity results?), this is pretty fluffy and looks like linkbait.

    • akiva oki

      wow how “professional” you have to be… That sounds like unfulfilled scientist! maybe you can find it out… how many KW per gallon of pee (like everyone is interested!).

      That article is showing a general idea of this type of generator and those girls made an experimental machine not a commercial product. But probably putting comments like that makes you feel very clever. yeah smart ass…

  • freedomev

    how useless. How about something actually worth doing?

    • Ronald Brak

      Yes, they could have spent their time watching Sex and the City instead.

      • akinbowale jenkins

        u so dum Ronald, just cos a bunch of students in AFRICA attempt at something significant, albeit with certain technical faults, u instinctively suggest them to debase their minds watching sex and d base of you..

        If they measure electricity in hours that is the way in which it can be interpreted to them as they can only qunatify a gallon of petrol or gasoline to run for max of 3 hours.. u gotta understand where folks are from before u crap about them

        • Bob_Wallace

          1. Reread what Ronald wrote. Read with comprehension.

          2. You’ll get more respect if you write like you’re literate.

        • Ronald Brak

          Sometimes I communicate ironically. Irony is when a person says exactly what they’re trying to say.

        • Chris Dibor

          Is it not obvious He was being ironic? Sarcastic, even…you should be embarrassed and offer an apology, if you are mature enough

          • Ronald Brak

            It may not have been obvious. He might not be a native English speaker and it can be very difficult for people who don’t speak English as a first language to pick up on these things. But he certainly writes like a native English speaker.

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