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article imageHuman urine can be used for fuel cells

By Ryan Hite     Jun 12, 2014 in Environment
The world produces billions of gallons of urine each day, which is enough to fill 4,200 Olympic swimming pools.
Most of us will label it as waste, but scientists are hoping to use urine to generate power for our society.
A group of scientists from Korea University outlined a plan to use carbon atoms from human urine to produce electricity.
This would be done by replacing expensive platinum used in current fuel cells with carbon found in human waste naturally, they claim.
Fuel cells are a technology that converts chemical energy from various sources into electricity by reacting hydrogen and oxygen.
They work by delivering the hydrogen gas to a negatively charged anode on one side of the fuel cell, while oxygen is delivered to a positively charged cathode on the other side.
At the anode, a catalyst knocks the hydrogen atoms’ electrons off, leaving positively charged hydrogen ions and some free electrons.
A membrane placed between the anode and cathode only allows ions to pass between them. This means that electrons have to travel along another circuit, thus generating an electric current. Scientists all over the world hope they could be used in the future to provide power for vehicles and generate electricity for the home and office. The problem is that the catalyst used inside fuel cells is expensive and its cost is holding back marketable development of the technology.
By replacing platinum with carbon, which has shown to have similar properties, Korean researchers believe they will drive down the cost of fuel cells. The study was led by Jong-Sung Yu at the University, who said there are other benefits that come with treating urine as a commodity rather than as a waste product. He argues fewer pollutants, such as drugs from urine, would reach fresh or salt water bodies. As well as fuel cells, carbon they recover from urine could also be used in other applications, like batteries.
More about Urine, human urine, Fuel cell, fuel cell technology
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