Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh – renowned for its leadership on critical global issues – have discovered a way to use urea – (NH2)2CO – as a fuel for low-cost fuel cells. Fuel cells are an excellent form of alternative energy for, amongst others, cars, submarines and remote power stations, but concerns over the cost of hydrogen and its explosive nature have prevented the technology from being widely used.
Using urea — which is present in all animal and human urine — instead of hydrogen could be a low cost alternative to these super low-emission systems. Urea is a rich source of nitrogen and its removal at sewage plants is both energy-intensive and expensive.
Removing urea directly from urine offers a possible alternative for producing both clean water and electricity.