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Fuel Cells From Nanomaterials Made From Human Urine

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the hennig-brand-would-be-proud dept.

Power 83

New submitter turning in circles (2882659) writes 'Carbon based fuel cells require carbon doped with other elements, normally platinum, for oxygen reduction reactions. Urine contains carbon with an exciting splash of nitrogen, sulfur, potassium, silicon, and so on, and you don't have to manufacture it: the stuff just comes out by itself. In an article published this week in an open journal, researchers from Korea reported a new nanomaterial for fuel cells, which they dub "Urine Carbon." Upon drying, and then heating at 1000C, and rinsing of salts, the resulting Urine Carbon porous nanostructures outperformed Carbon/platinum in electrodes.'

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the stuff just comes out by itself (3, Funny)

LesFerg (452838) | about 3 months ago | (#47203223)

I'm sure you can get some kind of medical treatment for that

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 3 months ago | (#47203855)

Who the hell comes up with "You know, we should see how well using urine works for making a fuel cell."

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (1)

Jason Goatcher (3498937) | about 3 months ago | (#47203931)

Who the hell comes up with "You know, we should see how well using urine works for making a fuel cell."

Well, the nerds want to impress the frat boys, so...I'm guessing the frat boys came up with the idea and the nerds ran with it.

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (2)

OhSoLaMeow (2536022) | about 3 months ago | (#47205221)

Who the hell comes up with "You know, we should see how well using urine works for making a fuel cell."

Probably the same guy who looked at a chicken and said "I'm going to eat whatever comes out of it's butt."

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 3 months ago | (#47210243)

Wow that guy must be ancient by now!

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (1)

Mathinker (909784) | about 3 months ago | (#47206505)

If humanity is ever going to colonize other solar systems with slower-than-light travel, it's a no-brainer that we're going to have to learn how to recycle our waste. In a closed ecosystem, it makes sense to find ways to use urine, or plants/bacteria/yeasts grown using urine, as raw material to produce essential materials for repairs.

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47211321)

The idea has been around for quite a long time. A few car batteries have been designed to use urine.

If you want even crazier try looking up the guy who discovered phosphorus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus (look up how he discovered it.)

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about 3 months ago | (#47204539)

I'm sure you can get some kind of medical treatment for that

Well, that Depends.

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 3 months ago | (#47204845)

I'm sure a binder clip would work just fine, try not to put it in the exact same place each time.
And keep your hands to the sides when you remove it...

Re: the stuff just comes out by itself (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 3 months ago | (#47206131)

I think the researchers from Korea are going to suggest a jar.

Time to piss is someone's gas tank (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 months ago | (#47203229)

That settles it, time to piss in someone's gas tank.

Re:Time to piss is someone's gas tank (1)

Adriax (746043) | about 3 months ago | (#47203303)

Then you heat it to 1000C.

Re:Time to piss is someone's gas tank (4, Interesting)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 3 months ago | (#47203379)

Here's my question: how hot can a methane-fuelled fire get? I just had the rather humorous (and possibly disturbing) thought of batteries made of piss heated using farts as fuel. Every man could become part of his own power source.. plus we could harvest all that methane from cow farts that is supposedly contributing to global warming.

Re:Time to piss is someone's gas tank (1)

Grow Old Timber (1071718) | about 3 months ago | (#47203455)

I'll let you have that job of developing the mechanics involved with. "plus we could harvest all that methane from cow farts"

Re:Time to piss is someone's gas tank (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 months ago | (#47204087)

Hot enough coming in at 1950C in air [wikipedia.org]

Re:Time to piss is someone's gas tank (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | about 3 months ago | (#47204325)

So...Morpheus was right?

Labs smells worse than... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203997)

... fish being microwaved in the employee kitchen. Must by buying Fabreeze by the pallet. "Bring me my yellow lab coat!!!"

Re:Time to piss is someone's gas tank (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | about 3 months ago | (#47206621)

Next step: catheter and tube from driver - and passenger! - side straight into the fuel cell.
"Got to stop off at the bar first for a couple beers, I don't have enough fuel to make it home."

LOL ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47203235)

Now there's a renewable energy source.

I can see bars having a "pee here for the environment" campaign.

Re:LOL ... (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 3 months ago | (#47203881)

Yeah, people are known for their great aim in bars. You can put some guys in a room where they could piss anywhere in the room, and they would wind up pissing out the door.

Re:LOL ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203975)

Gives new meaning to the phrase "Whose fuel cell is this?"

All it takes is power (2)

edibobb (113989) | about 3 months ago | (#47203253)

With enough energy, you can convert water, urine, or almost any common chemical into a fuel cell and make the headlines. However, that does not make it practical. There are always the problems of efficiency, scalability, portability, and sometimes availability (as in the case of urine and bacteria). In other words, don't pee in your gas tank any time soon.

Re:All it takes is power (4, Funny)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about 3 months ago | (#47203271)

If peeing in your gas tank is wrong I don't want to be right.

Re:All it takes is power (2)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#47203667)

Your mechanic loves you!

Re:All it takes is power (1)

bswarm (2540294) | about 3 months ago | (#47203715)

If you drink a lot of alcohol first it will boost the octane level for better performance.

Re:All it takes is power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203299)

...don't pee in your gas tank any time soon.

Now you tell me

Re:All it takes is power (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 3 months ago | (#47203319)

True, but I'm fairly confident dried, heated and rinsed urine is still going to be cheaper than platinum.

(If you disagree, would you consider a trade?)

Re:All it takes is power (1)

edibobb (113989) | about 3 months ago | (#47203489)

Platinum is a catalyst, urine is a fuel. A catalyst is not consumed during a reaction.

You can also make explosives out of urine, but that doesn't make it economical.

Re:All it takes is power (1)

turning in circles (2882659) | about 3 months ago | (#47203607)

Actually, I believe they are using the dried urine carbon as a catalyst. It is not consumed in the fuel cell (or otherwise).

Re:All it takes is power (4, Informative)

InvalidError (771317) | about 3 months ago | (#47203639)

Urine is not a fuel in TFA. They extracted a few chemicals from it which can be used to process carbon electrodes that allegedly outperform conventional carbon electrodes with platinum catalyst.

Eliminating the need for platinum could considerably reduce costs.

Re:All it takes is power (1)

tsa (15680) | about 3 months ago | (#47208929)

And eliminating reading the article could significantly increase ignorance and the amount of posts that show ignorance.

Re:All it takes is power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203843)

With enough not-RTFAing, you can convert almost any random thought into a comment and get some mod points. However, that does not make it relevant. There are always the problems of this story being about making highly porous electrodes, not about using urine as a fuel. In other words, don't piss on this parade any time soon.

Re:All it takes is power (1)

tsa (15680) | about 3 months ago | (#47208937)

Yeah, usable fuel cells. Just around the corner since way longer than Linux on the desktop. And they both will stay there for a long time to come.

Buzz words made from nanoparticles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203291)

Buy nano particles here! Cheaper than anywhere else!

Energy density? (1)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about 3 months ago | (#47203337)

So the material is made porous by heating and removing salt particles. Nice! There can't be much material left after drying though, I'm curious how much the energy density of said yield would be. I did spin through the paper, I noticed the 300-400mg/L yield but not the energy density, did anyone else catch it amongst the jargon?

Re:Energy density? (1)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about 3 months ago | (#47203359)

Oops! Forgot to edit start of second sentence out.

Re:Energy density? (4, Informative)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 3 months ago | (#47203519)

The URC acts a catalyst in the fuel cell, not the fuel itself. The catalyst is what lowers the activation energy for the reaction and in this case also serves as the conductor which transports the generated electricity for other use.

Re:Energy density? (1)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about 3 months ago | (#47204451)

Ah! Thank you for clarifying that for me. Obviously I did read it a bit quicker than I should have.

Re:Energy density? (1)

LesFerg (452838) | about 3 months ago | (#47203435)

I'm curious how much the energy density of said yield would be. I did spin through the paper, I noticed the 300-400mg/L yield but not the energy density, did anyone else catch it amongst the jargon?

I guess your spin through was a little too quick then. The purpose is to create a porous " electrocatalyst". Not a fuel.

Re:Energy density? (1)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about 3 months ago | (#47204477)

Yes it obviously was! As I said above, thanks for clarifying that for me. It wasn't entirely clear to me in the summary. Perhaps I shall read a little more into it.

human power source (1)

thygate (1590197) | about 3 months ago | (#47203339)

Sure! Give the machines some more incentive ..

Re:human power source (2)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 3 months ago | (#47203413)

To serve us cheap, watered down beer!

I for one welcome our new robotic stadium vendor overlords

Re:human power source (1)

thygate (1590197) | about 3 months ago | (#47205433)

ok, throw in some daily breeding programs and we have a deal.

Indecent what????? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203483)

No....I was just charging my car.

Tall, frosty piss! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203493)

& etc.

And in the other corner (1)

russotto (537200) | about 3 months ago | (#47203511)

...the challenger, Urea from Korea!

Waterless No Flush Urinals (1)

DadLeopard (1290796) | about 3 months ago | (#47203577)

Well, the Waterless No Flush Urinals will make the perfect collection device! At least as long as they can keep the idiots from throwing their cigarette butts in them! Just connect the plumbing to a collection tank instead of the sanitary sewer system!

Exciting Splash! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203579)

That's a way to get excited! "Hey Jim, what gets your grid excited? Well Bill, its the SPLASH! Hey Jim! Watch where you point that thing! Hey! You didn't have to do that! Look at me! Well you got me first! " To the joy of engineering students everywhere, the beer halls are suddenly a source of unspeakable power (they can't talk while tipping the glass, lest they risk a spill). Despite the claims though, it still sounds like a pissy solution.

Here it comes, wait for it.
I for one welcome our new beer passing robotic overlords

Engineering students? Nah mate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47205659)

The most alcoholic (and for that matter any illicit substance abusing) student types are those in business and law. They are to be feared. Engineers come a distant third.

heh, prior art exists (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 3 months ago | (#47203589)

namely, a lovely line from Tom Clancy concerning a black helicopter pilot where he shouldn't be without enough fuel to scat... "Son, right now I'd burn piss if I had enough."

Comes out by itself? (1)

ichthus (72442) | about 3 months ago | (#47203629)

.the stuff just comes out by itself.

Well, if ((age < 2) || (age > 65))

Laptop battery dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203669)

Awww... just piss on it.

Urine a source of "nutrients" no to waste (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 3 months ago | (#47203671)

There's that potassium, and phosphorus.. Both are major elements used in fertilizers for industrial agriculture, i.e. we rely on them for cheap and abundant food. So collecting and harvesting piss could become very important.

Re:Urine a source of "nutrients" no to waste (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 3 months ago | (#47204123)

Separating that waste stream from the other waste steams is prohibitively expensive. Baring some massive shortage of both elements that makes them so valuable that they pay people to collect their urine it's not going to be separated and when mixed with Human fecal matter the urine is useless for crops unless you want all the disease risks that go with it.

In parts of the world where human waste is used to fertilize crops you will find infections of hepatitis, hook worms and other very nasty things are common because they get them from the food fertilized with night soil (human waste). The appropriate first world use of human waste is fertilizing non-food crops and using those crops to feed animals thereby placing a barrier between the human waste which contains human diseases and other humans. Short of charing the waste it's nearly impossible to guarantee the removal of all human pathogens. It's not because of laziness than no first world country uses human waste on human food crops, there is a very good public health reason for it.

Re:Urine a source of "nutrients" no to waste (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47205377)

Hepatitis is not transmitted via 'fertilizers' and hook worms only if you put the excrements on the ready to harvest fruits (and what would be the point of that?)
The rest of your post is simply wrong ...

Re:Urine a source of "nutrients" no to waste (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#47204133)

also present in feces, waste management is very poor USA compared to what it could be, squandering the easily recycled nutrients when the alternative methods of producing them are quite expensive. We don't really have shortages of resources on earth, nor even coming shortages, instead just massive wastefullness

Re:Urine a source of "nutrients" no to waste (1)

Megane (129182) | about 3 months ago | (#47204523)

So? RTFS. They rinse the salts and stuff out of it to keep only the carbon. Those minerals should all be in the rinse water, already partly refined. Now piss off.

Re:Urine a source of "nutrients" no to waste (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 3 months ago | (#47207497)

Blaskowicz is right about the mineral source though - recycling phosphorous will probably be needed before potassium in terms of a ready source.

And it's just the first step! (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#47203717)

But I'm not so sure we want to be around for number two...

Re:And it's just the first step! (1)

Terrin2k (979690) | about 3 months ago | (#47203797)

I see what you did there. Now go some paper towels and clean it up!

Re:And it's just the first step! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47208703)

2 girls 1 cell...

Has this reseach undergone pee review? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203815)

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Re:Has this reseach undergone pee review? (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 3 months ago | (#47207519)

Sure has - and I bet it was a relief for the editor to get an honest title!

This is just... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47203857)

taking the piss.

Valuable (1)

StormReaver (59959) | about 3 months ago | (#47203949)

This is valuable stuff, now that it has a market use. And to think that I wrote it off as waste and was just pissing it away.

Heck, this is kinda crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47204007)

urine is fuel? let's imagine:
your employer could recycle your urine to pay energy bills
bathrooms would expose a device were you piss in (in order to recycle and separate from the "other stinky thing")
you can be sued for pissing outside the above device (in public wcs)
no more pay-per-piss toilettes
a new job would come out: pisser
homeless could beg less (due to the above "job")
stooners would be dragged out from public toilettes (they'r blocking energy harvesting)
in order to piss more, people would drink more water, which is healthy
no more people pissing in the street (would be wasted money)
greedy people would piss in bottles
no more free pissing Pr0n (wasting "energy", you mad!)
fetish escorts price would increase
piss mining era (third world exploitations)

Re:Heck, this is kinda crazy (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#47207929)

There is very marginal amount of energy left in urine, that's why the body discards it as waste. And in that, It's simply too complicated to turn nitrogenous materials into molecular nitrogen and exhale them through your lungs, plus organisms doing it are not that ecologically friendly because most ecosystems suffer from a lack of fixed nitrogen. So you create water soluble urea H2N-CO-NH2(or ammonia for some creatures) out of it, and piss it out. Let the bacteria, plants, etc, recycle it into proteins you can eat again. That's urine. It's the best fertilizer ever, other than it's too soluble and the nitrogen runs away with the rain as runoff. Unless you have good black soil with a lot of ion exchange capacity to bind it and not let it run off into the river and the ocean, from which fungi that penetrate the soil throughout can get it and teleport it all over the place where a plant, like a tree, needs it. You don't see much of these fungi except at breeding time, they stick their reproductive orgams above the ground, called mushrooms, and there is a million variety in them, some toxic cuz they got friggin tired of always being eaten. It's like you're about to fuck and you whip out your dick and some piranha flies by and bites it off. So those people with poisonous dicks killing piranhas that bite them off would have a natural selection pressure to make it to tomorrow. Fungi are the top chemists of nature, when it comes to drugs, or recycling waste and getting the last drops of energy out of them, they can digest even cellulose in the cold and some termites farm them for it. But most fungi out in forests live symbiotically with other plants, and some fungi, like morel mushrooms, there is word that only some kinds of trees are able to feed them properly in exchange for the minerals, water and nutrients they bring to the roots from miles away.

What's the fastest way... (1)

usacoder (816957) | about 3 months ago | (#47204015)

to patent my urine.

This is not as new an idea as one might think. (1)

elmohound (1229996) | about 3 months ago | (#47204267)

I recall reading a recipe for case-hardening iron in a Scientfic American article from 1890's. The process involved packing a crucible with iron, straw, and horse feces and urine, then heating in a furnace.
I guess these ingredients were readily available to black smiths of the time.

Re:This is not as new an idea as one might think. (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#47206549)

in the late 19th century standardized parts meant blacksmiths had less and less work, so more and more of them would take up shoeing horses, and of course in the first half the 20th century the automobile pretty much extinguished the career of the remaining blacksmiths by the 1960s

I knew it... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47204389)

How do you accelerate the development of fuel cells as much as humanly possible? Turn it into a pissing contest!

I'll drink to that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47204569)

Bottle, after bottle, after bottle.

Oh ya baby, I went there.

Interesting (-1, Offtopic)

RuthiePSills (3689823) | about 3 months ago | (#47204885)

my friends aunt just got a stunning black Nissan only from working parttime off a macbook... you can look here ..............www.cash29.com

Best scientific trolll (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 3 months ago | (#47205055)

North Korea just wants to see the rest of the world spend hours in the lab trying to replace platinum with pee. They're probably laughing their butts off right now.

On a more serious note, how stable is their new fuel cell? If the electrodes need to be replaced frequently, then it won't really be any improvement. The linked article claims the electrodes are more durable, but I'd like to see someone corroborate that. This may be difficult to replicate because they used human urine, the composition of which can change drastically based on diet.

Deflector Sheilds (1)

RPGonAS400 (956583) | about 3 months ago | (#47205161)

I would think this would work better for deflector shields than the moon swirls in the next article, but maybe the "swirlies" are related.

This time scientists are taking the piss... (1)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about 3 months ago | (#47205485)

...seriously.

Nomenclature (1)

Alpelopa (864348) | about 3 months ago | (#47205975)

I'd say "pissash" rolls of the tongue easier than "urine carbon," but the metaphor is too disgusting.

Guaranteed IgNobel (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about 3 months ago | (#47206111)

There's just no way this research is not winning an IgNobel Prize. It fits the ethos: first it makes you laugh, then it makes you think.

This guy already knew about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47207367)

http://roadroving.com/2010/01/24/gerard-butler-solves-the-energy-crisis/

We had a band powerful enough ... (1)

bakes (87194) | about 3 months ago | (#47207679)

This has been done before. In the 70s there was a blues band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.

turbo boost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47209287)

With methane. Surely our cars will be a piece of shit, err correction, piss and shit.

OMG the jokes....... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47211691)

I'm blind already

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