A research team at Heriot-Watt University is developing the world's first Direct Urea Powered Fuel Cells targeting applications in water treatment/purification and renewable energy where urea is a problem contaminant. Dr Shanwen Tao and Dr Rong Lan make up the Youtricity team and have developed a prototype, the Carbamide Power System.
As a major component of urine and mass manufactured, non-toxic easily transported solid, urea offers a freely available alternative to hydrogen or methanol fuels used in traditional fuel cells. Building on patent pending technology the first Youtricity has already demonstrated proof of principle using commercially available urea solution (also known as carbamide) and urine.
Urea is a rich nitrogen source and its removal from municipal wastewater through de-nitrification is both energy intensive and expensive; by direct removal of urea, Youtricity offers a possible alternative producing both clean water and electricity.
Funded by an EPSRC Follow on Fund Grant and with a 100cm2 demonstrator planned for early 2011, the team at Heriot-Watt University (Scotland) is optimising the Youtricity cell in preparation for further investment or technology licensing.
The researchers believe the new fuel cells could be used for submarines or power generation in remote areas.
Credit and top image of Dr Shanwen Tao and his research partner Dr Rong Lan developing the world's first Direct Urea Powered Fuel Cells, Heriot-Watt University
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