Researchers test urine for energy

Researchers are trying to find alternatives for low-cost energy - by testing urine.

The study, by experts at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, is investigating if human and animal urine can be used in fuel cells instead of methanol and hydrogen to create low-cost and more environmentally friendly energy.

Urea, or carbamide, is found in human and animal urine and is used extensively in heavy goods vehicles for low emissions. It is therefore the main area of concentration - and the creation of a new Carbamide Power System could mean the production of cheap, portable and non-toxic energy.

Research pair Shanwen Tao and Rong Lan have received a £130,000 grant to develop a prototype.

Tao and Lan think that if successful, the technology may be used in remote areas such as deserts and islands and can also be used by the military or in submarines. By reusing waste water, the by-product could be turned into electricity.

According to the university, fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy into electricity with heat as a by-product, without the need for combustion.

Hydrogen and methanol are put in one side, with oxygen or air on the other side in traditional fuel cells. The sides are then separated by a specialised ionic-conducting membrane.

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