Urine – a future source of energy?
Scientists study the urine as a source of energy to power a fuel cell or to provide fuel gas.
It’s true! A team researchers at the University of the West of Eng, and in Bristol, under the direction of Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos, studied urine as a source of potential energy. The team recently published results his initial studies in the scientific journal “Physical Chemistry”.
The power of pee
Urine contains several chemical elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which may be decomposed by anaerobic bacteria. It is produced in large quantities in farms but its collection and distortion are often problematic. However, there is no need for specific microbes to treat urine: all necessary microbes are normally already present in the soil and waste water. If we could effectively exploit its potential, urine could be a good source of renewable energy in an energy-hungry world.
The urine used to generate electricity
Some anaerobic microbes generate electrons during metabolism. For their potential to produce electricity, they are used in a biofilm installed in a microbial fuel cell (MFC). Of urine and water are continuously introduced into the fuel cell. Microbes metabolize chemicals in the urine, generating in this case electrons, which then migrate to the anode, where they are unloaded. The water provides a medium for the cathode so that an electrical voltage is generated. The amounts of energy are currently relatively modest, but it is much more than a gimmick. It is anticipated that further tests with different flow rates and other microbial densities provide a basis for its commercial use.
Urine used to produce fuel
Some groups of anaerobic microbes can also produce hydrogen from urine. One of the disadvantages of the implementation of a hydrogen-based economy is that large amounts of energy are required to produce it. Hydrogen is normally produced by the electrolysis of water (a process that requires large amounts of electricity), for separating hydrogen from natural gas or methane with molecular filters, or by dissolving the aluminum in acid. The use of microbes to produce hydrogen from urine promises to be a much more economical than the current process method.
Not a new technology
Long, microbes are used to produce biogas (a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide) from waste water treatment plants in some waste. The growth process has been hampered by the investment required to produce biogas in industrial quantities, but as the reserves of oil and gas are depleted and fuel prices rise unabated, this technology is becoming increasingly interesting for the production of biogas for use in fuel or to be refined into methane for fuel cells and other applications.