Pee Power: Could Urine Help Charge EVs?

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Could a compound in urine be used to generate electricity, even for vehicles?

It's a possibility. According to a report, two postdocs at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, are generating electricity with a new type of fuel-cell prototype—one that uses urea, or carbamide, a compound that's present in urine.

Over the past couple of years, several automakers have started to use a small tank of liquid urea solution, called AdBlue, to help reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions—in vehicles including Bluetec versions of the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, R-Class, and GL-Class, as well as Audi and Volkswagen's V-6-powered TDI vehicles and the BMW X5 and 335d. It's a solution that's also seen some applications in the trucking industry. But no, you can't simply pee in the tank, in those vehicles, to keep that tank topped off.

The so-called Carbamide Power System breaks urine or urea—sourced from animals or people—down into nitrogen, CO2, and water, while generating electricity.

There's no word yet on exactly how much electricity could be generated per amount of urea, or what sort of production scale is viable. But at the very least, it sounds like a new way for wastewater-treatment plants—which already separate urea from wastewater—to potentially give back to the grid and help supplement the future power demands of electric vehicles.

[INA, via Yahoo News]
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