Four African Teenagers Create Power From Pee

A group of African girls have made an engine that runs on a truly renewable resource: human urine.

Over the last two days, Lagos, Nigeria has hosted Maker Faire Africa, the Maker movement’s bastion on that continent. One of the most impressive and surprising devices displayed there is a device that uses a material we all have ready access to in order to power an engine. That’s right: four girls, aged 13 and 14, have created a prototype generator that runs on urine.

For one liter of urine (about half what a person produces in a day), the generator will six hours of electricity. The process works by separating the hydrogen out of the urine, and then using it to power the generator.

Take a deep breath, though. This isn’t some sort of perpetual motion machine powered by pee. 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. You couldn’t just set this up in your bathroom and power your house from your toilet.

That said, other, more established scientists are pursuing urine as a power source, and so we can do nothing but tip our caps to these four girls for doing some serious technology leap-frogging: with very limited supplies and (we assume) no graduate degrees, they’ve managed to create a device on the cutting edge of power generation.

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  • Cartoph

    Great to see teenagers in such countries trying to make stuff and help themselves.
    That said, will someone please start proofreading the articles? Words are missing, just like that fabled fourth girl we're not sure exist (is it three or four girls? get your facts straight!).

  • Guest

    They are four girls, just because the last one is not in the picture doesn't mean she does not exist. The fourth girl was not able to make it for some reason. Too bad she is not in the picture too.