Every year a huge amount of waste is generated due to the increasing consumption and developing economy of advanced countries. At times recycling proves to be beneficial creating new products from the potential useful materials in the waste. Unfortunately, the world is still facing with waste management issues for other recyclable waste such as Electronic Waste (E-waste), Industrial waste, Human Waste etc. An effort in the past has been made for recycling such type of waste and scientists are contributing factor to it.
Recently, scientists from Korea University have proposed to use human urine to generate cheap electricity. They will replace the expensive platinum used in fuel cells with the naturally found carbon atoms in uric acid.
Fuel Cells are used to convert chemical energy to electrical energy which is done through a simple set up of anode, cathode and the chemical reactions of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen gas is delivered to the negatively charged anode while oxygen gas to the positively charged cathode. An expensive catalyst, platinum, is used at anode to knock off hydrogen electrons and convert it into positively charged hydrogen ions. This is done because a membrane between anode and cathode only allows hydrogen ions to pass through. The knock-off hydrogen electrons travel through an external circuit to generate the electric current.
Platinum is expensive and hindering the commercial development of fuel cells. Each day the world is wasting 10.5 billion liters of a potential carbon source. Using inexpensive and naturally available carbon from uric acid can accelerate the fuel cells production. Carbon can be used as a cheap alternative for platinum catalyst in fuel cells.
If we are able to produce cheap fuel cells it can open a whole new world of innovation, cheap electricity, fuel cell vehicles and even fuel cell powered homes.