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Pee Power Offers Green Energy Alternative

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 03/15/11 05:07 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:35 PM ET

Pee Power. It’s not a game created by first grade boys. Rather, it’s a new green technology.

The Guardian reports that Ohio University’s Gerardine Botte has invented a way to create hydrogen fuel from urine. Ammonia and urea, two compounds found in urine, are also a source for hydrogen. Placing an electrode in the wastewater and applying a current creates hydrogen gas.

The company that has commercialized “pee power” is called E3 Clean Technologies. Their “ammonia electrolysis” process is referred to as GreenBox technology. The GreenBox is expected to be ready by the end of next year. The technology will be targeted towards areas with large groups of people, such as city buildings, offices, and stadiums. Botte reports that an office building of about 300 people can generate two kilowatts of power… it’s unclear how much power could be generated if office managers invested in more water coolers.

Beyond generating power, Botte hopes that the new technology will also reduce animal feedlots' pollution. She estimates that 1,000 cows could generate up to 50 kilowatts of power with their urine.

Botte isn’t the only one experimenting with this unlikely source. Last year, Inhabitat reported on Bristol Robotics Lab, whose research also involved generating energy from urine, through microbial fuel cells. The lab aimed to create urine-powered robots and energy-producing urinals. The BBC covered another research group, based in the U.K., which is aiming to use urine in fuel cells for powering objects such as submarines.

While “pee power” is certainly an entertaining concept, its creation has serious implications. The world is starting to pay the price for relying on dirty energy. Reports flood in daily of health problems associated with coal, oil, and natural gas production. It is time to move away from dirty energy sources, and it is time to get creative. If urine will contribute to the green energy movement, then it is time to start taking pee seriously.

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