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July 14, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Urine, the fuel of the future, say students

URINE may become a new energy source to replace the fossil fuel and power our world in the future, according to a team of Australian students.

They put forward the idea at the third Shanghai International Youth Science and Technology Expo, which kicked off yesterday.

About 400 students and teachers from 18 countries and regions gathered in the city to compete with their scientific inventions at a five-day fair launched by Shanghai Education Commission and Shanghai Science and Technology Commission

"We propose using humble urine in place of water in hydrogen production plants," said Jack Fairman, a Grade 10 student from the Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane.

Hydrogen separated from urine can be used to generate electricity while the nitrogen can be used to fertilize crops, according to the seven-strong team. Using electrolysis, an electrical current passed through an alkaline electrode separates hydrogen from the urea. "Hydrogen is already being seen as a potential fuel for the future that does not have the serious environmental implications of fossil fuels," Fairman said.

Due to urine's chemical composition, using urine in the production of hydrogen was 332 percent more energy efficient than using electrolysis on water, the team said.

They proposed governments make it mandatory that all new businesses, schools, public facilities, and all other new developments install toilets that separate out urine. Such toilets had already been developed, they said.

Collection trucks would go to these facilities to collect the urine and transport it to hydrogen plants, where electrolysis would be used to extract the hydrogen.


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