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Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:25 AM

Oh, this? Just some teenage girls from Africa who invented a urine-powered generator.

Last edited Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:22 AM - Edit history (1)

on edit: looks like some of the more scientisty types on du have pointed out that the process is not very efficient for making electricity and is best used for processing waste.... well I say, who gives a shit!! these girls are still totally awesome either way....

....of course, I am just kidding, the good science on the part of the folks posting here is actually very welcomed, since I have only basic knowledge of this sort of thing - thanks



How's this for an innovative startup: four African girls — the eldest of which is just fifteen years old — have worked together to invent a generator that's powered by urine. The group presented their creation at this year's Maker Faire Africa, and it's so freaking brilliant it makes me want travel back in time and punch 15-year-old me right in the solar plexus.

The Next Web lays out how it works:

Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which cracks the urea into nitrogen, water, and 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.

1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity.

link: http://io9.com/5958887/oh-this-just-some-teenage-girls-from-africa-who-invented-a-urine+powered-generator


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Reply Oh, this? Just some teenage girls from Africa who invented a urine-powered generator. (Original post)
trailmonkee Nov 2012 OP
MrMickeysMom Nov 2012 #1
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #8
Scootaloo Nov 2012 #15
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #20
Scootaloo Nov 2012 #24
jberryhill Nov 2012 #21
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #23
jberryhill Nov 2012 #30
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #34
jberryhill Nov 2012 #26
Old and In the Way Nov 2012 #2
uponit7771 Nov 2012 #3
niyad Nov 2012 #4
SubgeniusHasSlack Nov 2012 #5
Fridays Child Nov 2012 #6
Lint Head Nov 2012 #7
Art_from_Ark Nov 2012 #18
CakeGrrl Nov 2012 #9
DCKit Nov 2012 #10
Warpy Nov 2012 #11
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #13
Warpy Nov 2012 #48
Zorra Nov 2012 #12
Blue Owl Nov 2012 #14
Fire Walk With Me Nov 2012 #16
woolldog Nov 2012 #17
Separation Nov 2012 #19
jberryhill Nov 2012 #22
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #28
Indpndnt Nov 2012 #29
jberryhill Nov 2012 #31
liberal_at_heart Nov 2012 #33
jberryhill Nov 2012 #35
liberal_at_heart Nov 2012 #36
jberryhill Nov 2012 #38
liberal_at_heart Nov 2012 #40
Spitfire of ATJ Nov 2012 #43
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #37
jberryhill Nov 2012 #39
trailmonkee Nov 2012 #41
Indpndnt Nov 2012 #44
Thor_MN Nov 2012 #25
Spitfire of ATJ Nov 2012 #45
liberal_at_heart Nov 2012 #27
LadyHawkAZ Nov 2012 #32
secondwind Nov 2012 #42
Kablooie Nov 2012 #46
PossumSqueezins Nov 2012 #47
caseymoz Nov 2012 #49

Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:28 AM

1. WHA???

I have not read this yet, but had to sqee for thinking they could do this.

That's fucking brilliant!

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Response to MrMickeysMom (Reply #1)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:40 AM

8. I'm guessing it doesn't produce much 'net' electricity... but, they are on the right track??

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Response to trailmonkee (Reply #8)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:53 AM

15. One liter = six hours of electricity.

That's actually quite awesome, honestly.

It's converting the body's stored energy into electricity. However unlike using muscle power (say, cranking a dynamo) it doesn't cut into our own energy resources (calories). Rather it breaks down the chemical bonds in a human waste product (urine) to produce hydrogen to fuel a generator.

Because it's using energy that is otherwise inaccessible to us - and would just be thrown away - the net energy gain is effectively 100%. Maybe not that great, perhaps, as it still relies on chemicals that we have to ingest and process (you can't just drink water until you're urinating pure H2O and expect it to work)

of course, I presume that six hours of electricity isn't being measured against an American level of electricity usage... but still.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #15)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:01 AM

20. they use other power for the electrolosis?

I am not that great at chemistry... but in order to get the breakdown they need, they need something to power that process... tyhey might get 6 hours of electricity... but they may need, for example, enough gasoline or alcohol that might produce 4 hours on its own... I think that's what's happening here - if you check out the website, there are lots of scientisty types discussing it...

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Response to trailmonkee (Reply #20)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:09 AM

24. Wow, my derp

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #15)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:04 AM

21. Electricity is not measured in "hours"

And, yes of course, the process requires more energy input than output.

The process was not "invented" by these girls either. It has been suggested for years as a cogeneration method for waste water treatment.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #21)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:08 AM

23. You could say the 'invention' part, is doing it in africa, with a pile of junk??

that would be the inventive part also, the article said they invented the generator, not the process

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Response to trailmonkee (Reply #23)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:18 AM

30. It still doesn't produce net energy


The process was invented in connection with waste water treatment in order to improve efficiency by getting a small fraction of energy return.

You could say that the regenerative brakes in a hybrid car also "generate" electricity too - once you have accelerated the car and are looking for a way to slow it down anyway.

The key line in the article which indicates the author has no clue whatsoever, and should spur one to do some checking is the "six hours of electricity" line. That is such an utterly ridiculous and uninformstive way to characterize electrical energy production that one should immediately question any other assertion in it, because it screams "I don't know wtf I'm talking about."

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #30)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:36 AM

34. its still pretty cool... now stop being so smart

of course I'm kidding

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Response to trailmonkee (Reply #8)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:10 AM

26. It doesn't, and they're not

The actual inventor - a chemical engineer in Ohio, said

"“It is a high school project, so don’t take it <so seriously>,” Botte said, suggesting the students work with an engineer to understand the technology and its appropriate applications."

http://m.nbcnews.com/technology/futureoftech/african-girls-pee-powered-generator-raises-questions-1C6956099

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:32 AM

2. Brilliant.

Wow...I'm in awe.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:36 AM

3. NICE THINKING!!! There's way more hydrogen in urine than in sea water. If the electrolosis can be...

...made efficient like it has been for a couple of other devices the the whole "energy" from nothing crap can be dispelled...

Or, it could be easier to get more out of urine than sea water.

It's not energy from nothing, or in this case getting more energy out of a substance than what is put into it to get it out, its a lot of what we use from a little of what isn't as useful...

6 hours of running from one liter = more energy out of urine than what went it to extracting it (in theory).

I pray they get funded for larger devices

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:36 AM

4. completely brilliant

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:38 AM

5. Creating the new term, "Piss ON!"

 

Brilliant ladies.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:39 AM

6. Beyond impressive!

Awesome!

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:39 AM

7. What if urine could power cars?

This is so awesome!

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Response to Lint Head (Reply #7)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:55 AM

18. There was a girl in Japan who made fuel from apple peels

It was written up in the local paper several years ago. I don't know whatever became of her process.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:41 AM

9. Wow!

I hope they're able to find a way to put it to productive use soon. Great for them!

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:42 AM

10. OMG. Really.

 

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:43 AM

11. Years ago, I knew someone working her way around the world

teaching physics and chemistry, one third world country at a time.

Her stories of how students would kludge together equipment from what they found in rubbish dumps so they could perform experiments was mind boggling.

I am not surprised this has happened in Africa, not a bit.

It doesn't say what the power source for the electrolysis is. Let's hope if this goes into production, PVCs are part of it.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #11)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:50 AM

13. i think it's gasoline... went to the weblink and there were a bunch of folks discussing

the low level of exchange for power output vs. input is... it looks like it has only a small net gain like I thought it would be... but not much.... considering what they are working with though, it's impressive and i am sure that if they get funding, who knows?

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Response to trailmonkee (Reply #13)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 03:25 AM

48. Exactly. Renewable energy from wind or solar would make it

efficient enough to supply household needs very nicely and since solar cells especially are dropping in cost and will continue to do so, that sounds like a great solution.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:49 AM

12. Grrrl power ~ lol! You GO, grrls!

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:52 AM

14. That should piss off GE and Big Oil

n/t

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:53 AM

16. The Force is strong with these ones.

 

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:53 AM

17. yuck

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:00 AM

19. Corrosion will be an issue.

But it's good to see young minds taking steps to try and think outside the box. Exactly what we need.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:08 AM

22. I hate to pee on the parade here, but...

The process was invented by a chemical engineer in Ohio, and does not produce net energy.

http://m.nbcnews.com/technology/futureoftech/african-girls-pee-powered-generator-raises-questions-1C6956099

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #22)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:14 AM

28. Nooooooooo!!! all that pee I just collected!! wasted!!

that's why I like posting these types of things on DU there are (in all sincerity) a ton of really smart peeps here - tnx

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #22)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:18 AM

29. In other words, Botte is pissy she had to become a chemical engineer to do what these kids did.

In Africa. With scant resources and less than university-level teaching. Now she says they should work with an engineer to understand what they just did and what to do with it. She's not a bit impressed by what they accomplished, is she?

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Response to Indpndnt (Reply #29)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:21 AM

31. They have Internet in Africa too

What an absurd way to read the article.

No - an actual tech reporter with a clue spent a few moments on Google, tracked down someone who actually knew something about the process, and got an informed comment.

The comment seems more along the lines of suggesting that if these girls think they are generating net power, then they should hook up with someone who can explain they are not.

It's a high school science project which demonstrates a wonderful principle these girls learned. An electricity generation method it is not.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #31)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:31 AM

33. hey even if all they learned is how

urine can break down into its chemical elements and then experiment with how we can use those chemical elements then they are still ahead of most US students. They are on the right track and I bet with the knowledge they are learning we will probably be hearing more from them in the future. Africa is actually growing very fast right now. There will be some very good things coming from them in the future.

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Response to liberal_at_heart (Reply #33)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:43 AM

35. Which is pretty much what Botte said

Aside from the fact that you can learn how to electrolyze urine from a YouTube video, the notion that a university professor is somehow expressing piqué by suggesting these girls further their education, is just wacky.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #35)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:46 AM

36. oh give them a break.

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Response to liberal_at_heart (Reply #36)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:55 AM

38. I'm not busting on anyone

(With the exception of my despair at the general level of science education among DU readers)

Of COURSE there are bright teenagers all over the planet who put together great science fair projects. As someone who has volunteered to judge science fair projects on multiple occasions, I LOVE this stuff.

What irks me are presumably educated ADULTS in the US who think a phrase like "six hours of electricity" conveys meaningful information. I mean come on - you can get two YEARS out of a watch battery, to run your watch.

These girls are great. I just find it depressing for our future that adults here can be so simultaneously uninformed and condescendingly patronizing - as if understanding electrolysis of a conductive aqueous solution was some great mystery which is astounding that an African teenage girl could understand it. Thank goodness they weren't raised among people in the US who think that way.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #38)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 02:00 AM

40. Well you can blame that on our failing public school system

Most people can't pass a history or civics quiz either.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #38)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 02:53 AM

43. "six hours of electricity"

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #31)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:49 AM

37. the best thing about this story going viral...

Aside from the discussion.... It will inspire more kids to look into the Ides of energy being pulled from waste.... Anything that baby steps us away from corporate fuel dependency, is a good thing

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Response to trailmonkee (Reply #37)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 02:00 AM

39. Yes it is...

...and going viral in the same manner as the perennial "water powered car" which has more to do with magical thinking among people who don't bother to learn any science, but figure the reason we don't have them is the consequence of some kind of conspiracy.

And, please, I'm not knocking a cute science fair project. I am knocking the fundamentally dumb reportage.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #39)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 02:04 AM

41. i can honestly say... this story has helped me learn alot

I enjoyed checking out the African makers project website too.... The worlds an awful big place, lots of smart kids out there... You never know where the next genius will come from

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #31)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 02:56 AM

44. Did I claim they didn't have internet?

What an absurd way to read a post. But, please, continue telling us how we shouldn't be impressed with children creating something out of nothing in one of the poorest regions in the world. The fact that they can access the internet and apply what they find there is amazing in and of itself. Not all kids in poor countries (including poor areas of the US) have those resources. And they did it all without having the luxury of sitting in an engineering lab in a university and ordering materials through the science department. Nowhere did it say they were going to use it to seriously generate electricity for anyone's use. They have to start somewhere. Could you do what they did when you were a child? Unfortunately, the engineer was dismissive, not encouraging. Too bad.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:09 AM

25. If you could chill beer with the electricity....

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #25)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 02:58 AM

45. Then create it from the urine....

don't laugh,...ever have a case of the ?

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:12 AM

27. back to basics

That's what I love about the innovation coming from Africa. They take the natural resources(sun) and natural waste(urine, feces) and turn it into power. Sometimes I think we think we're too above it all to get down in the dirt or the poop and pee. That is brilliant.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 01:28 AM

32. Wow. Just wow. I'm speechless. n/t

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 02:17 AM

42. without reading the article, I venture to guess these girls are Oprah's girls?

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 03:05 AM

46. It's great seeing Africans inventing new ideas for themselves.

Besides the fact that these are some amazing teens.

Most of the technology that is developed for third world countries comes from Europe, the US or Japan.
It sometimes feels like the rich, smart guys are condescending to help out the poor, stupid peasants. Noblesse Oblige.

It's encouraging to see that some African children are getting the kind of education that trains them to use their minds to help solve their problems themselves.

I'm sure there would be pride for Africans knowing they were using technology developed for and by their own people.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 03:17 AM

47. Someone should ring out Karl Rove's panties right now...

We could use it to power the East Coast.

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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2012, 05:56 AM

49. Being from the "Cold Fusion" generation. . .


. . . excuse me for being skeptical. I've seen too many other schemes for miracle energy based on the "Free Lunch" hypothesis. In all of them, the energy yield measured in turned out to be not nearly as high as it was claimed to be during the "attract investors" stage of the project.

Now that I've said that, I will say it's worth a glance, if for no other reason because we're talking about a renewable resource.

By the way, six hours of electricity doesn't tell you anything. How much electricity for six hours? Enough to run an LED or enough to run a refrigerator?

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