3 feb 2013

Sunday's Tale - Maker Faire Africa: schoolgirls create an urine-powered generator

Sunday's Tale: a post from the past.
This story comes from Maker Faire Africa 2012, in Lagos. This 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."

Possibly one of the more unexpected products at Faire is a urine powered generator, created by four young students. The girls are Duro-Aina Adebola (14), Akindele Abiola (14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (14) and Bello Eniola (15).
It produces electricity for six hours using a single liter of urine as fuel.
So how exactly does the urine-powered generator work?
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…

Note: This is an experiment more than a real new tool for electricity generation. The net power output is negative due to the energy needed to get the hydrogen from the urine through electrolysis. These issues, coupled with the complexities of storing hydrogen safely, mean the generator may not be an immediately marketable prospect, but it demonstrates the potential for using the abundant resource that is urine to create valuable products.

Photo credit Maker Fair Africa

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