By Debbie Gregory.
As gross as it may sound, scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD are looking at ways to turn liquid human waste into clean, efficient fuel.
The scientists observed an unexpected result when combining urine with a newly engineered nano-powder based on aluminum. It instantly releases hydrogen from the urine at much higher rate than with ordinary water.
Hydrogen has the potential to fuel cells and provide energy that doesn’t cause pollution. It is also the most abundant element in the entire universe.
In space, astronauts recycle waste water and urine because drinking water is a precious commodity. For soldiers, power and energy are becoming increasingly important to run communications and electronics gear, which can’t be resupplied.
Dr. Kristopher Darling, an ARL researcher said, “What we do as Army scientists is develop materials and technology that will directly benefit the Soldier and enhance their capabilities.”
Fuel cells generate electricity quietly, efficiently and without pollution. According to a Department of Energy’s website, fuel cells are “more energy-efficient than combustion engines and the hydrogen used to power them can come from a variety of sources.”
The ARL team will continue investigating ways to harness the nano-powder as a potential energy source. They are working closely with other researchers at the laboratory, including the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, to discover how to harness the material as a potential energy source.
Across the DOD, thousands of scientists pursue innovative research in support of the joint warfighter.