free debate

July 10, 2009

Waste to Energy

Alternative energy is a big topic right now. Solar, nuclear, wind, water, hydrogen... anything that can generate power and isn't a fossil fuel is being discussed. So, I suppose that it shouldn't be too suprising that scientists from Ohio University have developed their own alternate energy: pee power.

This energy source is a very cheap way of producing hydrogen. Nickel-based electrodes can collect the hydrogen in urine by debonding it from nitrogen in the urea molecules. It takes less electricity to debond this hydrogen from nitrogen than it does to debond water (0.037 V vs. 1.23 V).

Hydrogen energy is a major contender in the alternative energy field. A hydrogen fuel cell is a very efficient means of producing electricity. (Click the image on the right to see how it works.) Unfortunately, they are currently expensive to build, and so are not commonly used. However, hydrogen could eventually be used to power cars, provide electricity to areas that can't access a power grid, and power day-to-day technology like computers and cell phones.

So, the technology isn't yet to the point where you should start collecting your pee. But, in the future, this may become a way to deal with both waste disposal and energy production. It's a neat, if somewhat peculiar, idea.

For more information about hydrogen, visit the EIA page.