urine powered generator

So what do we have here?

Four crafty teenage Nigerian girls have put together an ingenuous rig for a ‘science and technology’ fair.

“The system works like this:

Along the whole way there are one-way valves for security, but let’s be honest that this is something of an explosive device…”

A well meaning ‘eager beaver’ journalist wanting to help promote their exploit  has branded the whole contraption as an ‘urine powered generator’.

An then the hell broke loose:

It is all over the Internet and news, three Nigerian school girls have invented a urine-powered generator that can produce electricity for 6 hours from a single litre of urine!

Really? Sadly, no.

I can’t find an original source for this story, where did it come from? [was it here?] Are there really some Nigerian school girls with a urine-powered generator or is this just a hoax? Either way, all those journalists that repeated the story really should be ashamed of themselves, it is so obviously wrong and/or untrue.”

 

I’m not in the business of apportioning blame all over the internet but after finding out about this succession of events I started to have serious doubts about who is wrong and who should be ashamed of themselves….

I’m sure that most of you have already understood where I’m headed to but please bear with me.

So OK, the ‘eager beaver’ has indeed stretched the reality a little bit. It’s not an ‘urine powered generator’ but an ingenuous ‘science project’ presented by some teen age students.
So what was it that brought the wrath of the ‘eco-scammer’ on those ‘poor’ girls? Or even on the writer of the original article…
Who, and where, claimed that the contraption produced more energy than it consumed? Yes, those arguments involving thermodynamics and all that scientific mambo-jumbo that he is mentioning inside his article are absolutely correct (“trust me, I’m an engineer”, a real one that is) but perfectly misplaced.
As is the original title but while that title is an innocent exaggeration the second article is a malicious  (or myopic?) and undeserved rebuttal.

Getting back to what had started all this, that ‘thing’ is not a ‘generator’ but can be used as an accumulator!
Solar panels produce energy when the sun is up but people need light at night, obviously.
Even more importantly, solar panels produce a type of current (DC) which can be used to ‘split’ water into hydrogen and oxygen and to light a special kind of bulb but for little else. If you want to power a ‘modern appliance’, a refrigerator for instance, you need an inverter – a pricy device that transforms DC into AC.
On the other hand the type of gas powered generator used by those crafty students is relatively cheap and common enough almost everywhere in the world. Adapting it to run on hydrogen is easy, this feat was not even mentioned in the original article.

So the real meaning of what those 4 girls did is that they came up with a way to replace a costly scheme comprising a lot of batteries and an inverter with a gas bottle, an already largely available gas powered generator, an electrolytic cell and two filters.

Not a small feat, by any means!
If you take some time to think about it, of course.

And yes, there are four girls that did this, not three like the ‘eco-scammer’, who probably didn’t even bother to read the original article, wrote insouciantly after merely taking a glance at the photo that came with the inappropriately titled  news.

The original story can be read here: http://makerfaireafrica.com/2012/11/06/a-urine-powered-generator/
and the ‘eco-scammer’ rebuttal here: http://www.eco-scams.com/archives/790