A different kind of water . . .

| March 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

An invention submitted at last year’s Maker Faire Africa (MFA), which describes itself as an annual pan-African fair for inventors and handcrafters, held in Lagos, Nigeria in 2012, has unleashed a storm on the internet.

MFA’s manifesto declares: “We will make the things Africa needs… we will hunt down new skills, unmask locally made materials… keep our work sustainable and be kind to the environments in which we make.” In keeping with these sentiments, 14-year-old Nigerian schoolgirls Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin and Bello Eniola presented an electricity-saving generator that makes use of urine. MFA explains the device thus: “Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.

The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder. The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas. This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.”

The young scientists are first to admit that the research is still rudimentary, but commented that they were proud that it could convert one litre of urine into six hours of electricity. On a sour note, blogger Jon Haines and others said: “Electricity will still be needed to electrolyse the urine, and the generator will still need to be driven by gasoline, so this is hardly revolutionary.”

In reply, this retort: “Perhaps the device is imperfect, but instead of bashing everything and everyone because the device was not created in America, should we focus on how this device may lead to a better future for all of us? Assuming we all realise that a) we are running out of natural resources like water and b) electricity in Africa holds a completely different value than in America.”

Gerardine Botte, a chemical engineer at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, in the US, who invented the urea electrolysis process, said: “What these kids are doing is taking urea electrolysis and making hydrogen and then using that hydrogen to make electricity.” Botte added that the student’s work is “empowering” and suggested they work with an engineer to understand the technology and its appropriate applications. Says MFA (http://makerfaireafrica.com/maker-manifesto/), “We will remake Africa with our own hands.”

Category: Autumn 2013

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