Monday, April 22, 2013

Here's pee in your eye (urine trouble now...)

(with a capital PEE)

Earlier I wrote about "GOOD NEWS." Today I’m writing about “Positive News from around the world, and right next door…” the title of a tabloid I picked up during my recent trip to the San Francisco Bay area.

Positive News sounded a little like those two songs I wrote about yesterday that inspired me; Put on a Happy Face and We Sure Could Use a Little Good News Today. But the only positive news about Positive News is, it was FREE. Free is a very good price. So I put the paper in my man-purse and brought it home.

After reading:
Four Nigerian Teens Build Working Pee-Powered Generator

I also found the story on and decided to steal it from that website instead of Positive News. The story reminded me of my sister-in-law's experience when she was invited to a college dance while she was still in high school. She took the train from Memphis to the University and discovered a nasty sty on her eye. Somebody told her to "put urine on it." Urine was not available at the drugstore, so of course she used her own supply. It worked and she went to the dance. This was about1968.

So here's the story, written by somebody named Beth Buczynski about the African teens:

We often assume that revolutionary technological advancements are the stuff of MIT scientists or Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but that’s not always the case. All it takes to change the world is a good idea and the courage to see it through to fruition. That difficult process is paying off for a group of four African teenagers who’s recent Maker Faire submission is rocking headlines around the world.

The girls are Duro-Aina Adebola (age 14), Akindele Abiola (age 14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (age 14) and Bello Eniola (age 15), and they all participated in the Maker Faire Africa this year in Lagos. Reliable electrical power is hard to find in many parts of Africa, and the girls wanted to make something that would be truly useful for their fellow countrymen. Together, they assembled a working generator that’s capable of turning a single liter of urine into 6 hours of electricity.

The average human produces about two liters of urine in a day, so this generator doesn’t require “input” from an entire village. Still, turning pee into clean energy requires more than just a full bladder and a place to put it.

First, collected urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen. The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder. The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas. The resulting purified hydrogen gas is then introduced to the generator. The girls were sure to include one-way valves to make the process safer, but as the Maker Faire Africa blog points out, there’s definitely risk of explosion.

In addition to that safety issue, there are other reasons why the pee-powered generator is far from market ready. As FastCoExist points out, “The separating of the hydrogen from the urine requires a source of electricity–and quite a bit of it. While the ammonia and urea in your urine make it easier to separate the hydrogen than it is to separate hydrogen from water (which is why we can’t use water as a power source) this generator still requires a large power input to work in the first place.”

Still, these teenagers aren’t the only ones who believe human urine could be a valuable source of energy sometime in the future. Scientists have been looking for a way to transform this waste into power for some time. We applaud these innovative young ladies for accomplishing in a couple of days what few have been able to achieve in a laboratory. (Or did Beth mean lavatory?)

Pee S. Please don't send urine ... just a response with your opinion of this Positive News to will do, Thank You.


  1. All I have to say is "ewe"... but then... One has to wonder why solar isn't catching on. C'Mon APS & SRP.... give up the $$'s or off to the tinkletorium wee go!!

    1. Thank you for commenting. It's nice to have a reader and a I agree. When solar panels were disappearing from roofs in great quantity, a friend of mine figured out how to mark them permanently and a few solar stealers were apprehended. I don't think they could steal pee. Anonimously, David F. Stern.