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July 6, 2009

21st-century alchemy: Hydrogen from urine


Maybe even better than gold from lead and other long sought, as yet unrealized dreams of transformation.

An aside: By the time turning lead into gold happens, both elements will have exactly the same value — zero.

The accommplishment will be the subject of a report that alludes to a dream of long ago.

But I digress.

From a group led by chemist Gerardine Botte of Ohio University comes a report (just published in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Chemical Communications) that hydrogen has been produced from urine.

According to a July 3, 2009 story on PhysOrg.com, "Urine's major constituent is urea, which incorporates four hydrogen atoms per molecule — importantly, less tightly bonded than the hydrogen atoms in water molecules."

"Botte uses electrolysis to break the molecule apart, developing an inexpensive new nickel-based electrode to selectively and efficiently oxidise the urea. To break the molecule down, a voltage of 0.37V needs to be applied across the cell — much less than the 1.23V needed to split water."


"'During the electrochemical process the urea gets adsorbed on to the nickel electrode surface, which passes the electrons needed to break up the molecule,' Botte told Chemistry World."

"Botte believes the technology could be easily scaled-up to generate hydrogen while cleaning up the effluent from sewage plants. 'We do not need to reinvent the wheel as there are already electrolysers being used in different applications.'"

More about this potentially world-changing work here and here.

Below, Botte with a small-scale working model powered by ammonia. 


It makes an estimated 1kg of hydrogen,


providing energy equal to that from a gallon of gasoline, for 90 cents.

[via Milena]

July 6, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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