2012 02 TSEC UreaKnowHow.com Feasibility of Urine as Fuel

The most important technological impact of this project arises from the utilization of Urine, to produce cheap electricity. Apart from being a significant source of Hydrogen production, this technology can also be used to denitrify wastewater, thus saving expenditure on waste water remediation.
To start with, the concept of generating energy from urine involves using urea, which is a carrier of Hydrogen. As in one molecule of Urea (Carbamide), a major component of urine, contains four atoms of Hydrogen bonded to two atoms of Nitrogen, this Hydrogen can be easily be released to give energy. Urine as compared to Hydrogen is easy to store and transport, and is much less expensive as a fuel and is abundantly available. Urine is undoubtedly lesser expensive in regards to storage conditions, like in Hydrogen storage, the special material vessel and high pressure and low temperature conditions are required. Also, for producing energy from Urine, less expensive membranes are installed in a fuel cell as compared to complex burners for hydrogen. Thus, Urine in a fuel cell offers promising route to renewable energy if the past literature claims are true.
In metropolitan cities where the population exceeds one crore, population of Mumbai alone crosses two crores. So, Mumbai produces approximately 20,000 Kl of urine per day. This if burnt with the help of fuel cell can generate ample amounts of energy besides alleviating the pollution problem. The resulting electricity produced can be used for various day-to-day applications. Simple chores like pumping water in a society (Housing Complex) to running a car, from operating streetlights to water heaters, all such electrical application can be undertaken by urine powered fuel cell. Having said this, it is very important to check the feasibility of this Project. Consumption of energy per day in city like Mumbai is high. Hence, even if basic energy requirements are quenched by this technology, energy consumption of the city will be substantially reduced.
The usability of cell can be checked by applying it to energy requirements in day-to-day life. In the case of Thermodynamic Feasibility, as we have assumed 100% cell efficiency, the cell is considered to be working to its maximum potential. Even though Thermodynamic limit is reached; this cell cannot be made feasible. As in case study, applied for Centralized as well as Distributed Fuel Cell, it can be inferred that, this technology produces very less amount of energy, with given amount of effluent. Also, considering the economic aspects, the fuel cell is not only costly, but maintenance of the same will be expensive too. The initial investment is high and the returns are comparatively low. It can be concluded that, Urine Fuel Cell is neither feasible on a commercial scale nor for small-scale applications, as the energy produced is neither sufficient nor economical. Although, it is a clean technology, yet, practically, the energy content of Urine is very low, and therefore not feasible to exploit in commercially.

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