More power to pee

More power to pee

In countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, electricity is being produced from urine.

Hyderabad: In countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, electricity is being produced from urine. Taking a cue, city-based Sudheer Jalagam, 43, an engineering graduate from JNTU working as a software engineer in the USA, returned to India six months ago and has since been working on a model to develop power from urine.

Sudheer says, "We have proposed the idea to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and other bodies. A presentation is due and we are hopeful of getting the green signal. We have spent Rs 5 lakh on the project."

This technology is adopted in African countries with success with a process called electrolysis. Similar technology is also available in United States of America in the name of 'Green Box Technology.' Electricity is produced through electrolysis procedure and the electricity thus produced can help recharge cell phones and small bulbs.

"We are able to get support from Bristol Robotics Lab from UK. We are working with scientists in India to bring the technology to Hyderabad. We have submitted proposals to GHMC, Minister for Municipal Administration and CSRs of MNCs and are waiting for their support for funding to enable further research," says Sudheer Jalagam.

How is electricity generated from urine?

Electricity can be generated from the Hydrogen atoms by separating them from Oxygen atoms present in urine. Using Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) electricity can be generated directly through scientific process. (MFCs are a strategy that uses microbes as a biocatalyst and changes the chemical energy deposited in chemical compounds into an energy current)

How is it possible in Hyderabad?

A few toilets in the city can be identified for the project and can implement the procedure of generating electricity which can be used for streetlighting. With the current available technology, it is possible only to charge phones, and illuminate a low watt bulb. If microbial fuel cells (MFCs) technology is used, along with home grown technology, a large amount of electricity can be produced.

How urine turned into power source

A microbial fuel cell is a device that uses natural biological processes of 'electric' bacteria to turn organic matter, such as urine, into electricity. These fuel cells are efficient and relatively cheap to run, and produce nearly zero waste compared to other methods of electricity generation.

In practice, urine will pass through the microbial fuel cell for the reaction to happen. From here, electricity is generated by the bacteria which can then be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

The research team from the University's Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemistry and the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT), have worked with Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Bioenergy Centre, to devise this new kind of microbial fuel cell that is smaller, more powerful and cheaper than other similar devices. "Microbial fuel cells can play an important role in addressing the triple challenge of finding solutions that support secure, affordable, and environmentally sensitive energy, known as the 'energy trilemma'. "There is no single solution to this 'energy trilemma' apart from taking full advantage of available indigenous resources, which include urine."


Process of making

  1. Urine is pumped into septic tank
  2. Microbial fuel cells placed inside the septic tank will process electrolysis leading to separation of components in the urine.
  3. Using a nickel-based electrode, scientists can create a large amount of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells.
  4. Hydrogen enters a water filter for purification which then pushes into a gas cylinder. The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax which is used to removed moisture from the hydrogen
  5. Purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator and heavy atoms breaks producing the electricity.

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