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Four African Girls Create Generator that Uses Urine as Fuel

Four teenage girls: Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, and Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola figured out a way to use a liter of urine as fuel to get six hours of electricity from their generator.

The invention was displayed at the annual event Maker Faire Africa, Lagos, Nigeria, an event that showcases ingenuity. The idea of using urine as fuel is not new but Bola, Biola, Toyin and Eniola came up with a practical way to put the idea into action and many households can really appreciate this.

How It Works

As explained on the blog of website, its process is itemized below;

  1. Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.
  2. The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, and then into a gas cylinder, which looks similar to the kind used for outdoor barbecue grills.
  3. The gas cylinder pushes the filtered hydrogen into another cylinder that contains liquid borax, in order to remove moisture from the gas. Borax is a natural mineral, commonly used in laundry detergent.
  4. The hydrogen is pushed into a power generator in the final step of the process.

You might be wondering; wont hydrogen pose an explosion risk? The smart girls used one-way valves throughout the device as a safety measure. The urine to power technology needs to evolve further before such a system is feasible, at least as far as applications like powering generators used in most African households go.

A professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University (Gerardine Botte), has been working on practical ways to make urine into a more useful hydrogen source, essentially by turning power into a byproduct of wastewater treatment. Gerardine Botte says it takes more energy to extract hydrogen from urine than you end up getting in return as electricity and feels the energy equation gets even more skewed by the inefficiency of the generator used in the girls’ project.

“You will never get more energy out than you put in” Botte says.

Botte estimated that Ohio University has a student population of 22,000, and if their urine were to be collected to produce hydrogen, they would be able to produce enough electricity to perhaps power about 100 to 150 residential houses for a year, continuously.

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