Though renewable energy experts have been hyping hydrogen for decades, it has always faced one major obstacle -- cost.
While hydrogen can be readily derived from nature's most abundant feedstock -- water -- the process involves large amounts of electricity to electrolyze H20 molecules, decomposing them into separate hydrogen and oxygen gases. Thus, most hydrogen today is manufactured using petroleum distillates -- not exactly eco-friendly.
But a recent discovery
at Ohio University may result in a cheap way to derive hydrogen from the second most-common liquid on earth -- urine.
An electrode oxidizes the urea molecule, creating two hydrogen molecules and two nontoxic byproducts -- nitrogen gas and potassium carbonate, both of which can be used as agricultural fertilizers. The whole process requires about 25 percent of the energy needed to create hydrogen using water as a feedstock.
Perhaps in the future, every home could be equipped with a waterless urinal that feeds directly into an electrolyzer, saving water and producing the family's daily automotive fuel needs at the same time.