Urine Could Slash Energy Costs

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Scientists say they could cut the cost of energy worldwide -- by turning urine into power.

Researchers at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University have created a prototype fuel cell to test the system. It would convert human and animal urine into cheap electricity. The material could be used as a non-toxic alternative to methanol or a safer replacement to hydrogen.

Shanwen Tao and research partner Rong Lan have won a $203,000 grant to develop their Carbamide Power System.

"We're only at prototype stage at present, but if this renewable material can be used as a commercially viable and environmentally friendly energy source, we will be absolutely delighted, and many people around the world will benefit," Tao said.

The pair see a future for the fuel cells in submarines and the military, as well as power generation in remote areas like deserts and islands. Urea solution is already used in certain large trucks to reduce harmful emissions -- so an infrastructure is in place.

"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," Tao explained.

Last month scientists at the Bristol Robotics Lab announced work on a similar system, meaning pee power may be commonplace shortly.

For more on urine energy and other stories, see The Sun.