Chemical relief

Just as the alchemists of old suspected, urine could be the ultimate starting material for making the fuel of the hydrogen economy and perhaps a wide range of other products. Gerardine Botte of Ohio University and colleagues are not extracting the urine when they suggest that an electrolytic approach to making hydrogen from this ubiquitous waste product is possible at a fraction of the cost of producing hydrogen from water. To break down the urea in urine, a voltage of only 0.37 Volts is needed across an electrochemical cells based on a nickel-catalyst, compared with the 1.23 Volts needed to split water.