Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where Can We All Take a Leak ?: A Solution From Africa

Of course the post title sounds like a joke of sorts and it does catch the eye, but the subject matter is not only a serious one, but also an interesting one as well.

Forget Apps and  useless Startups: These four African Girls have created a Urine Powered Generator

Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin and Bello Eniola aren’t even college grads — the young inventors barely in their teens! Growing up in a region with little natural resources, the girls were inspired to take on the challenge of creating an alternative energy system that could be further developed to solve energy solutions in their community.

Although the system produces six hours of electricity, it is not a stand-alone generator, as it requires electricity to initially power the electrolytic cell. Hydrogen is also volatile, so containing any amount of the pure gas is risky. But still, it’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for three girls who aren't even old enough to legally drive. We can only imagine the great accomplishments in renewable energy they will achieve in the future. Incredibly if Solar Power could be added as an energy source for the electrolytic cell, that could eliminate the need for supplying necessary electricity for running the Electrolytic Cell
Article Source Quote: Yahoo News
Four African girls have created a generator that produces electricity for six hours using a single liter of urine as fuel.
The generator was unveiled at last week's
Marker Faire Africa  in Lagos, Nigeria, by the four teens Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, and Faleke Oluwatoyin, all age 13, and Bello Eniola, 15.
So how exactly does the urine-powered generator work ? 
* Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen. (see footnote link) 
* The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder. 
* The gas cylinder pushes the hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
* The purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
And as for delivering the fuel itself ? Well, we'll leave that up to the consumer.
 The Marker Faire is a popular event across the African Continent, drawing thousands of participants who travel to Lagos to show their inventions and other practical creations. 
As the Next Web describes it, the Maker Faire is intended to highlight creations #that solve immediate challenges and problems, and then works to support and propagate them. Put another way, this isn't just a bunch of rich people talking about how their apps are going to change the world"
(Footnote Link)
For those interested in a deeper understanding of just how the Urea can be separated through an electrolytic cell system, please click the research paper which describes how much of this technology has already been understood for some time now. It's a deep and informative read.
Urea electrolysis: direct hydrogen production from urine

Of course a major component of Urine is obviously water. As we know, both Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules make up water in a specific arrangement. Incredibly both of these components burn when separated, but just how can you separate them ? Evidently a salt component may just help. Remember the Salt Water machine which sent a resonant frequency through Saltwater and caused it to burn ? The man was John Kanzius and he was on the CBS 60 Minutes.



That last video dealt more with the actual flame coming from the Seawater test tube which had nothing more than a paper towels used as a wick. But let's consider something similar which was reported on way back in October of 2011 that was almost identical to what those teenager girls from Africa did. Notice below.
Image Credit - RSC.ORG
The microbial Fuel Cell metabolises organic compounds in urine to produce electricity 

(Article Source - Royal Society of Chemistry)
31 October 2011 
Urine-powered fuel cells could generate electricity and reclaim nutrients directly from human and animal wastes, says UK Scientists. The development could make wastewater treatment easier and cheaper, and provide an abundant source of locally generated power. 
The team, led by Loannis Leropoulos and John Greenman at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, developed microbial fuel cells (MFS) - which use bacteria to break down organic molecules and generate electricity - that could run on the organic molecules found in urine, such as uric acid, creatinine and small peptides. 
Finding the right bacteria to munch these molecules was relatively easy - wastewater treatment plants routinely employ bacteria to do the job. But the crucial point, says Leropoulos, is that the current processes are energy intensive, where as the fuel cell approach could turn it into an energy-generating process. Getting the urine on the other hand required a volunteer. "It's one of us," quips Greenman, "but we're not going to say which one." 
The bacteria form a robust biofilm on the anode surface of the cell, and pass electrons to the electrode as they respire and metabolize the fuel molecules in the urine. The team have found that smaller cells have higher densities, "so we've followed a path of miniaturization and multiplication, building stacks of cells," says Leropoulos. An individual cell can produce a current of 0.25mA for 3 days from 25ml of urine, so stacks of hundreds or thousands of cells could run on amounts of urine available from homes, farms, or public toilets, for example. "Initially we'd probably be targeting local micro-generation," says Greenman. 
The lack of solids - which could clog up the fuel cells - in urine compared to more general wastewater gives the system a significant advantage, comments Lars Angenent, Director of the Agricultural Waste Management Lab at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, USA. But, he points out, there are some issues: "Firstly, there is a societal question - do people want to separate their urine ?" Although there are modern toilets which can perform the separation, it would require some social change. "Then there is the cost issue - they've shown it can be done, but will it be economical ?" 
Angenent observes that some research has moved to form fuel cells towards electrolysis of urea in wastewater to form hydrogen or hydrogen peroxide. These valuable products help balance the price costs. However, as Leropoulos explains, the bacteria in their fuel cell can't metabolize urea as fuel, so it could be possible to pass the urine first through an electrolytic cell to generate hydrogen, then through the MFC to generate electricity from the other organics. 
As well as generating power, the team's MFCs could help reclaim essential nutrients from waste, adds Greenman. Urine is particularly troublesome in wastewater treatment, since it not only contains organic compounds, but also high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Treatment plants currently expend significant effort and energy removing these elements from wastewater, as releasing them constitutes environmental pollution in the same way as excess  fertilizer leaching from agricultural land - it promotes algal blooms that can chock out rivers and waterways.  
The fuel cell bacteria could sequester those salts to grow and divide, but in normal urine the balance of nutrients is wrong - there isn't enough carbon fuel for them to grow fast enough to take up sufficient amounts of the other elements. "But if you balance it by adding cheap carbon source like acetate," says Greenman, "all the nitrogen, phosphate and potassium is captured into daughter bacteria, which perfuse out of the MFC and can be filtered out and dug back into the ground as fertilizer. 
by Phillip Broadwith
Finally, what amazes me about this whole story and others like it, is that if these African teenage girls from a poorer country than all those industrial giant Empires like Europe & North America (with all their collective Genius) can come up with such a simple solution no matter how crude or unrefined, if THEY are capable of figuring all of this out,  then surely this world's collection of self-promoting geniuses know what the score is on this too. But there is a problem. The idea of independent energy creation while noble sounding and certainly worth pursuing, will for the most part never see the light of day. Giant Corporate interests will never relinquish their customer base without a major fight. As an example, follow the less than sustainable Wind & Solar Energy corporate scams being pushed in the American West. The politicians the Corporations  finance into office (and I could care less what ideology they pimp) will never allow such a feature of energy independence life to become a reality. There is too much tax revenue to be lost and that is considered unacceptable no matter what the political speeches for Election/Re-Election say or promise otherwise. Take a good read from the link below. Big Business and Scientific Innovation isn't even pretending to be interested in pursuing Greener Technologies. Finding creative ways of keeping the old falling apart machinery running appears to be the direction being taken.
New Technologies Drive Oil Boom in U.S.
There is a further link on that page that takes you over to another site where Arnold Schwarzenegger is championing the Green Technologies, Green Jobs and "Energy Independence", but lets be honest, what is meant by the article's usage of the words/terms  "Energy Independence" has nothing to do with every family being self-sufficient or sustainable living. What is being promoted is the same old school hierarchy & death technology business model of who owns and runs what businesses and doing so under the cloak of Green Responsibility.
Green Technologies ? Green Economy ? Energy Independence ? Really ? Think Again 
I belong to a small science group affiliated with the  Institute of Ecological Technology or the ( IET -Community ) It's members are from around the globe. Here is the link to their site: 
Their last science convention I attended was very informative, interesting and fun. It mainly deals with various studies and research about the anomalous properties of water and exploring Viktor Schauberger's research and theories on acquiring energy from water, even seawater. Hence the salty reason I find the main topic of this post at the top so intriguing. At the end of that last science convention I attended, we all concluded that if any one of us discovered an amazing alternative energy find which would be truly ecologically sound, sustainable and create real individual energy independence, then it would be useless to try and get Patents, Bank Loans , etc to pursue any venture as a business enterprise. There are to many forces around the globe which would fight against any such concept of free energy from both political and big business entities. Ultimately we agreed that if any one of us discovered something truly worth sharing, that dumping the information out all over the internet would be the only viable option to get the public involved. How could those same forces fight against every single individual of the overwhelming population which surrounds this globe ?

This next video is a bit off topic, but not in so far as the common sense creative and inventiveness of people otherwise viewed by the intellectual community as having little value. Once again, this is an experience from Africa. In fact, Sierra Leone Africa where kids are hungering to learn and invent, all made possible by the the lack of mind numbing distractions which identify the modern western lifestyle that tends to dumb kids down in those lands. This is about a 15 year old boy named Kelvin Doe who is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely Self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts News and plays Music under the moniker, "DJ Focus". Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the "Visiting Practitioner's Program" at MIT. 

A couple more interesting links, the first being an example of Sierra Leonean music Kelvin enjoys and plays on his station, created by a Sierra Leonean musician, Bobby, who comes from the town of Kenema, who sings in the local language, Mende. In this song he discusses the dangers of lending money.

This next link also is in a sense off topic, but inclusive in the sense that many in the third world countries are equally intelligent and creative when given a chance. This is a piece I wrote about my experiences and personal learning from association with Mexican Culture growing up in California and how I watched them problem solve with very little resources other than what they can scour from the landscape. It effected me in the way I view things and how there have been desperate moments in my life where I needed to use my brain and think my way out of a problem using creative intuitiveness which is truly something that can be cultivated by anyone. 
In the end, no doubt creative people will keep trying !
BTW, I have a further separate post dealing with some other interesting aspects of usages of Urine Technology, but didn't want to include it here. Take a look at my next post called - 
That Much Coveted Sunset Gardening Award: "The Dirty Little Organic Secret That May Help You Win!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I'm curious Shakil Hossain, why did you find the need to make a fake complimentary comment and then proceed to Spam in a post ? Tou guys are predictable, always from India, Pakistan of Bangledesh - you've been reported to Google


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