It may sound like a joke, but researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have uncovered a secret power source that draws its power largely from carbamide, known more simply as urine. Currently $230,000 have been granted to the project led by Dr. Shanwen Tao alongside Rong Lan for utilizing the electrochemical properties of the waste to convert it into a practical solution.
If it works, the project could revolutionize fuel consumption. If it does not, it may look on paper like a big waste of time to the scientific community. Though it sounds unsanitary, carbamide would have a far lower impact on the environment than fossil fuels and would in fact be very safe for use. Increased use in vehicles would result in no dangerous carbon emissions that could endanger anyone in closed environments and possibly the atmosphere if too much was used. As a result, one of the key components to future fuel development has always been the utilization of something that would not endanger the environment and would be cost effective enough for affordable mass production. Fuel development technology has looked into several different methods of utilizing fuel ranging from the conventional to the incredible and the downright unusual.
One of the benefits of Carbamides would be the availability. This availability, however, may also result in serious competition between an established carbamide infrastructure and oil companies, which some suggest would rebel against a free energy market in the event it should prove to threaten the established profitable industry.
And there are many who are taking interest in the idea of cheaply available energy for electric vehicles including electric aircraft and smaller UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). After announcing the discovery, Dr. Shanwen declared that his upbringing in rural China was partially to thank for the inspiration. Urea is used in several farming communities worldwide to enrich soil with nitrogen.
And if it sounds a bit unusual to be using urine as an energy source, there are already several large trucks used worldwide in the industrial sector that utilize the idea, establishing a rudimentary infrastructure for the project long before the technology exists in its full form. Although the current system only works to improve gas mileage as opposed to full on energy production. Though the system is still in its infancy, Dr. Shanwen Tao and Rong Lan are hoping the process could change energy production forever.
Meanwhile, the green energy revolution is still making its mark on energy production with biodiesel and the electric car gaining popularity from year to year. Unfortunately, these devices each come with their own drawbacks. Biodiesel can work in a traditional diesel vehicle if the engine is converted properly, but the emissions from the vehicle contain potentially harmful nitrogen oxides. In addition, there is an estimated reduction of power of 10 percent after a biodiesel vehicle runs on the proper fuels. And while this may not be a problem for some, the fuels are not always easy to acquire. Electric hybrid vehicles on the other hand, while getting more economical each year, still present a cost barrier for many who wish to clean the world around them.
Will this energy solution turn once considered waste into a valuable resource?