Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola engineered this generator that turns urine into electricity.
A group of four girls ages 14-15 demonstrated their urine-powered generator at the recent Maker Faire Africa in Lagos. The girls’ project also generated a lot of excitement and interest on the web over this last week. Although it won’t be able to compete with the energy output of coal or gasoline, this technique puts forward the possibility that urine could be tapped as one of many (cough) um, clean energy sources. There is probably a stinky pee smell, but clean in this case means it doesn’t give off CO2 emissions or other pollutants.
Let’s take a look at their process—
The Maker Faire Africa blog listed their method as such:
- Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.
- The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
- The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
- This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
Along the whole way there are one-way valves for security, but let’s be honest that this is something of an explosive device…
The generated electricity powers a light bulb which is mostly hidden by the middle girl’s knee in the picture above.
The girls designed their system based on this paper by scientists from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Ohio University. Here is a more reader-friendly article on the paper that you might want to check out before you decide to explore the scientific paper.
There is also a good deal of scientific debate and skepticism over whether this is a useful or effective electricity generator. The comment thread below that blog post is a good sampling of the discussion.
Good science means hashing out the truth and not taking claims at face value. The only way to know for sure if this process works is to replicate the girls’ setup. With appropriate mentoring and safety precautions, it would be great to see other kids working to recreate this idea. If it turns out that this works…awesome! Then young scientists can work to make improvements to the technique.
We look forward to the day we can feature the work of the first group of teens that powers a cell phone from this kind of pee-powered system. Game on.
William Kamkwamba, Awesome Hero
William Kamkwamba was born to a farming family in Malawi in Africa in 1987. His home and the homes of his neighbors didn’t have electricity or running water. The family’s crops depended on the amount rainfall that they received because their farm had no irrigation. When he was 14, a horrible drought struck Malawi and the crops failed. Many Malawians died of starvation. William and his family survived but suffered horrific deprivation. His father was deep in debt from buying food for the family so couldn’t afford tuition. William had to drop out of school.
After surviving the famine, William was inspired by a textbook he borrowed from his local library called Using Energy to build a windmill to make electricity and eventually pump ground water from a well to irrigate the family’s farm. He was determined to give his family a more secure food supply with two maize harvests a year as well as an irrigated garden for a variety of vegetables.
William Kamkwamba slowly built his windmill from salvaged and modified scrap material. He describes how he did it in his autobiography The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The ingenuity involved in the design and construction of his windmill is astounding. This book is *highly* recommended to all young people over the age of 12. Read it. Listen to it. Do it.
There is also a picture book version of William Kamkwamba’s story for younger children because it is *that* good.
Image: My L'il Pwny by KeyzerSoze on DeviantArt
A couple of weeks ago 18-y.o. Stephen Thomas uploaded a video of his high school physics presentation to YouTube and it went viral. He’s taken his favorite show, My Little Pony, and with his knowledge of physics determined whether some of the ponies’ adventures and misadventures were possible. He did a pretty good job.
Even though Stephen Thomas debunked the Sonic Rainboom *whimper*, One Giant Leap of Awesome names him an
One Giant Leap of Awesome has its first Awesome Hero! Aaron is a 6-y.o. boy from California who is podcasting imaginative dinosaur adventures loaded with fun dinosaur facts. Aaron calls his podcast, Aaron’s World. Click here to explore his blog, enjoy the podcasts, and learn more about Aaron and dinosaurs.
Along with his time traveling spaceship and INO, the Computer from the Future, Aaron’s World usually focuses on one type of dinosaur per episode. INO–pronounced “I know”–reads questions from listeners and is Aaron’s trusty and informative sidekick. Some episodes so far have found our intrepid dinosaur adventurer climbing trees to learn about Microraptor, visiting Mexico at the late, late cretaceous to witness the asteroid impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and travelling a time tunnel into the future to meet INO’s inventor– Princess Scientist!
Aaron’s World comes out every two weeks during its 20 episode season. We can’t wait to see where Aaron’s, talent, imagination and love of dinosaurs take us next!