Urine broken down into hydrogen using electrolysis.

With the dearth of low-emission fuels and the high cost of renewable energy generating system such as photovoltaic cells have tempted automobile manufacturers to look towards sources which are present in abundance. Being the most abundant in the universe, hydrogen has always fantasized car manufacturers as a green fuel which doesn’t bring any performance issues along as well. However, conventional process used to generate hydrogen from water and finally transporting it, aren’t as ecofriendly as the fuel itself is.

Researchers at the Ohio University are trying to solve the riddle by generating hydrogen from a cheap and readily available waste – urine. These researchers believe that electrolyzing urine for hydrogen is easy as compared to generating hydrogen from water as in urine, hydrogen molecules aren’t as tightly held as in water. The system breaks down urea at a voltage of just 0.37 volts, which is significantly less than the 1.23 volts required to split water.

The research was initially conducted on synthetic urine made of dissolved urea, but later the group realized that the process was just as efficient when tried on human urine. The researchers believe that the technology can be scaled-up to generate hydrogen while cleaning up the effluent from sewage plants. The only downside is that urea gets converted into ammonia by bacteria very quickly, which could limit the usefulness of the technique.

Via: RSC