A recent news article says Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is investing on a project to generate electricity from urine. MCD is planning to set up 1000 waterless kiosks around the city.
The idea of generating electricity from urine is not a new idea.
Work in this field is being done in this area for quite some time now. But this article sure is one of the latest applications that I came across.
So lets see how urine, now called the liquid gold by many, is being used to generate electricity and other power generating purposes.
Urine to Electricity: The process would primarily involve four steps:
- a) Waste Collection: In this step waste is collected from the waterless urinals. These are then transported to portable power plants. The entire process would depend on the concentration of the waste, so it is of paramount importance that the waterless urinals are properly operated. If you ask me, I would say I see a double benefit if we can really put on the waterless urinals. One, it will serve as the successful completion of the first step in the process. Second, it would also lead to conservation of water. Generally public urinals would have and extensive use of water (I am only talking about properly maintained public urinals). So it leads to saving the essential element – water. When water is not used to flush it saves around 200000 litres of water per urinal. Isn’t that a very very significant number today?
- b) Power Generation: In this step the main thing that happens is that water and hydrogen are produced. This is done by the decomposition of bio-degradable components of urine.
- c) Reverse Osmosis: The following things takes place at this stage:
- (i) Water is cleaned through the process of reverse osmosis. The cleaned water can then be used for industrial purposes. Reverse osmosis is a filtration process that is often used for water. It uses pressure to force a solution through a membrane, retaining the solute on one side and allowing the pure solvent to pass to the other side. This is the reverse of the normal osmosis process, which is the natural movement of solvent from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration when no external pressure is applied.
- (ii) Power is generated from the hydrogen obtained.
- d) Power distribution: Now the most important stage. Once it is produced it has to be distributed to the people. One litre of urine would produce one kilowatt of power. This can then be used for multiple purposes. The power generated is good enough to light 50KW bulbs for 20 hours.
MCD is banking heavily in this project. They are going to invest heavily on it. They plan to build 1000 kiosks with 4 urinals each. They plan to generate 20000 KW of power from these kiosks which would give them 100 litres of urine.
As I said earlier this is not the first time urine is being used for power generation. There are several instances from past where it was used to generate power. Some of the instances are as follows:
- Urine to run cars -Although it is not yet commercially viable, but scientists at Ohio University devised ways to garner Hydrogen energy from urine to run cars. The prototype version that was developed was capable of generating 500 milliwatts of power. Professor Gerardine Botte with his team plans to commercialize the concept. We will need to keep a watch and see if it is possible in future.
- Urine Powered Paper Battery:This was achieved by Physicists in Singapore in the year 2005. The paper battery generating electricity from urine. It is seen as a perfect power source for the cheap, disposable health care test-kits for diseases such as diabetes. The battery unit is made from a layer of paper that is steeped in copper chloride (CuCl) and sandwiched between strips of magnesium and copper. This “sandwich” is then held in place by being laminated, which involves passing the battery unit between a pair of transparent plastic films through a heating roller at 120ºC. The final product has dimensions of 60 mm x 30 mm, and a thickness of just 1 mm (a little bit smaller than a credit card). The urine-activated battery could be integrated into biochip systems for health care diagnostic applications.
- Rechargeable Urine-powered batteries – The Japanese came up with a urine-powered battery that can be used for power generation and can be recharged with urine or other body fluids. The expected life of the battery is 10 years and it emanates 500 milliamp-hrs.
- Fertilizers from urine – This thing happened in Sweden where pilot projects were carried out to convert animal urine into white powder. The advantages that were highlighted of the product are that, one it stays longer in the soil and second it is also devoid of pharmaceutical leftovers.
So, based on this we can appreciate that surely urine deserves to be called the liquid gold. What is yet to be seen is the implementation of the innovative models and plan.
Depending on the implementation achievements it would either appreciate the liquid gold prices or it will be relegated to the lowest level.
Till then Pee for Power!!