Youtricity, a research group of the Engineering & Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, is developing the world's first Direct Urea Powered Fuel Cells. They are focusing their efforts to water treatment/purification and renewable energy where urea is a contamination problem.
This revolutionary new fuel cell takes in urine and out comes electricity and clean water. Brilliant! This would mean wonders for third world energy and clean water problems.
How does this magic work? The fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity through a series of reactions between a fuel and an oxidant. Urea is a great (and redily) replacement hydrogen or methanol fuels. The only catch is that the batteries don't store any chemical energy inside them. This means they can only operate when external fuel sources are supplied. So keep drinking that aqua.
This yellow wonder is the brainchild of Doctors Shanwen Tao and Rong Lan. It uses cheaper materials for its membrane and catalysts. It uses a non-toxic, non-combustible fuel: urine. Talk about reducing your carbon foot print. Did you also know that urea is also known as carbamide? Urea is not strait urine and comes from humans and mammals. These batteries work with both.
Dr. Tao explained his inspirations::::
"Growing up in rural eastern China I was aware of the use of urea as an agricultural fertilizer. When I became a chemist and was looking at fuel cell development I thought of using it in the process. We are only at prototype stage at present, but if this renewable material can be used as a commercially viable and environmentally friendly energy source then we will be absolutely delighted, and many people around the world will benefit."
Urea elsewhere- it is being used in trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Other interesting urea items are Urea-formaldehyde, aka pee plastic! This is a non-transparent thermosetting resin or plastic. These resins are closer to you than you think. They are used in adhesives, finishes, MDF, and molded objects. It also has a high tensile strength and used to glue wood together! Ah, the resources we piss away everyday!