Powering The Future With Pee

A group of enterprising Nigerian teenagers have developed a generator powered by urine to counter the country’s chronic shortage of reliable electricity. It is estimated that more than half of Nigeria’s 160 million citizens have no access to electric power, but the four Lagos schoolgirls believe one solution may lie in the power of pee. Jim Drury has more.

video transcript: It’s a chemistry lesson with a difference…..the teachers are all ears while their pupils demonstrate an invention they think could help solve Nigeria’s chronic electricity shortage. Their invention is the ultimate in waste recycling…..harnessing the power of pee to make a generator.

Soundbite (English) Duro-Aina Adebola, student inventor saying:

“We opted for urine, since, one, it’s a waste product, and if we use urine as we carry out electrolysis, if we use urine, our waste product or our exhaust gas is going to be water and that’s not poisonous to our environment.”

The system works via an electrolytic cell that breaks the urine down into nitrogen, water and hydrogen. Fourteen-year-old Duro-Aina Adebola is one of four girls at Lagos’s Doregos Private Academy who devised the generator.

Soundbite (English) Duro-Aina Adebola, student inventor saying:

“This hydrogen oxygen gas mixture goes into our water filter and the function of the water filter is to remove any impurities from our hydrogen oxygen gas mixture. The hydrogen oxygen gas then goes into our cylinder here which temporarily stores the gas when ever we need the gas.”

The cylinder contains liquid borax which purifies the hydrogen, making it ready for use. The generator can produce up to six hours of electricity per litre of urine. Their teacher says his pupils have even found a solution to the squeamishness associated with their raw product.

Soundbite (English) Head of Science, Doregos Private Academy, Lawal Olaide, saying:

“You know people get repelled at the odour of urine. If it’s their own urine, they don’t mind, but somebody else’s urine they don’t like touching it. To avoid that they added two molar solution of washing soda at point one percent, inside the urine, so it suppresses the odour of the urine.”

The quartet, aged between 14 and 15, are hopeful the urine generator will provide an environmentally friendly energy alternative for the poor. Even though wind and solar energy is harnessed in Nigeria, the options are capital intensive and not affordable for most rural dwellers. The young innovators have spent just 64 dollars on their invention and believe with another small investment they can make the device more compact, and more practical in millions of homes throughout the developing world.

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