Today I would like to talk about how hydrogen fuel cells are going organic. Specifically I would like to talk about how some hydrogen fuel cells use organic human waste for power and another H2 fuel cell simulates a human organ.
I’ve talked about pee-power for hydrogen fuel cells before. The scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK have a new take on using pee (urea) to power fuel cells and they have come up with a couple of different ideas for doing so.
First, the Heriot-Watt scientists report, “…they had been able to generate hydrogen from urine using an electrolytic cell with cheap nickel-based electrodes running at only 0.37 volts – much less than the 1.23 volts it takes to split water.” Apparently the urea acts to loosen the bond between hydrogen and oxygen found in pure water.
The second idea is to bypass creating hydrogen entirely and develop a fuel cell that runs directly on urea. While this doesn’t have quite the energy content as pure hydrogen it has enough to power a fuel cell and could be used in some farm settings where the cattle pee is flowing freely.
Now, the next fuel cell I would like to talk about is one that is shaped like a human organ. A modern day version of the iron lung that your great grandpa may have been using to breathe has been developed as a fuel cell instead.
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo is developing a fuel cell that mimics the intricate structure of a human lung to increase surface area and use less platinum (the most expensive material in a fuel cell).
Both of these leading technologies I’ve mentioned have their advantages. Each also needs more development to become practical in everyday usage. One day soon the future will be now and these leading edge technologies will no longer be leading edge but integrated into the mainstream of our everyday lives.