South Korea: Scientists Create Fuel Cells To Draw Energy From Urine; To Clean Wastewater – EQ Mag Pro
South Korean scientists from Korea Maritime and Ocean University have developed urea-based cells that can extract renewable energy using cheap catalysts.
In a major step towards renewable power generation, scientists from South Korea’s Korea Maritime and Ocean University have developed a device that uses human urine to produce clean energy. Named Direct urea fuel cells (DUFC), these can also help purify wastewater using the urea found in human urine.
The scientists achieved this feat using inexpensive electrodes and without precious metals, to make the most out of urea, which can be traced in human urine, according to Good News Network.
Turning wastewater into a renewable power source
The fuel cells developed by the scientists are capable of transforming any wastewater treatment plant into a powerhouse of renewable energy if they are utilised to their full potential. The fuel cells can be a viable option considering society’s ever-increasing energy demands, said the university.
According to the description provided by the university, Direct urea fuel cells (DUFCs) generate electricity by breaking down urea, a nitrogen-rich molecule widely applied in fertilisers and also largely present in wastewater. Although these fuel cells could become a great resource to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the researchers stated that catalysts required for these cells require precious metals like platinum, making them prohibitively expensive for mass production.
To tackle this financial issue, the team of scientists led by the university’s Prof. Kyu-Jung Chae explored a new family of catalysts-nickel chalcogenides. Since they are based on nickel, it makes the production of fuel cells significantly cheap without causing any hindrances to the energy production process.
Talking about their purpose, the researchers said, “It is worth noting that DUFCs can serve various purposes simultaneously. They can generate electricity while also helping in the treatment of urea-ridden wastewater, providing clean water in the process as well. These qualities make DUFCs a versatile option in remote places without access to a stable power grid, such as in rural areas, ships, or even space missions.”
Published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, the findings of the study proved that even nickel-based materials can be tailored to match and outperform expensive and precious catalysts containing precious metals. Termed as ‘state-of-the-art’ by the experts, they are now hoping that their effort will pave the way for the widespread adoption of urea-based fuel cells.