16.3 C
Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Electrici-wee? Getting energy from wastewater

Latest News

Let’s get real

AFL Aussie Rules Grand Final in Western Australia... Rugby League Grand Final in Queensland... Melbourne Cup in Tasmania?    Margaret Keating,...

Other News

Killing democracy

I believe the following information is essential knowledge for all Australians. Independent Senator Rex Pattrick has blasted Morrison for...

Can we inoculate against the racism virus?

Like many others, I watched with interest the recently screened ABC documentary, The School that Tried to End Racism.

COVID Venues of Concern update October 11

October 11 – Northern NSW Local Health District has been notified of new venues of concern associated with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region.

Covid Cassandra peers into the future

As the COVID lockdowns draw to a close, there are still people who profess themselves unwilling to vaccinate under any circumstances, and who object to bearing any consequences that may arise.

Final Tallowood stage up before Byron Council

The world may be in a state of immense turmoil and uncertainty, but at least we can rely on the inexorable forward march of the Tallowood housing development in Mullumbimby.

End the cult

A military conflict between China and the USA would very likely result in global nuclear war, a major setback...

Brought to you by The Echo and Cosmos Magazine


Wastewater. Photo Pinphuket/Shutterstock

A new catalyst can generate more electricity from urea.

Could we ever use urine to power batteries? An international team of chemists have come a step closer with a new catalyst for urea reactions.

“Urea is globally abundant in wastewater and can be used to power fuel cells as an alternative to conventional technology, which uses clean water in an electrolyser,” explains Yao Zheng, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials.

Urea – a nitrogen-rich substance that comes from mammal waste – has long been suggested as a store of chemical energy. It can be used in electrolysers to make hydrogen, which can then be used as a clean source of electricity.

But the reaction that could produce hydrogen (the urea oxidation reaction, or UOR) isn’t super-efficient, so wastewater isn’t yet worth harvesting for power.

“We sought to improve on existing UOR catalysts, which tend to perform poorly,” says Professor Shizhang Qiao, director of the Centre for Materials in Energy and Catalysis at Adelaide.

Read more: Tiny parasite could solve wastewater problem

The researchers found that a compound called nickel ferrocyanide could catalyse the urea oxidation reaction, making it much faster and more efficient.

“Our new catalyst made from nickel ferrocyanide requires less energy input and could also reduce the urea content of wastewater,” says Zheng.

“We have shown for the first time that we can make the process in the electrolyser work more efficiently so it can reduce the energy input and produce more hydrogen, than those that use existing catalysts.”

Qiao says that in addition to making clean energy, the UOR helps to remove urea from wastewater.

“Electrocatalytic techniques can convert urea-rich wastewater, which has become a big threat to human health, to hydrogen for clean energy generation as well as reducing its harmful effects on the environment.”

In a paper describing the research, published in Nature Energy, the researchers say that nickel ferrocyanide should be simple to make at larger amounts. They’re now working on the design of their electrolyser, with plans to scale the technology up.


This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Ellen Phiddian. Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Mandatory vax

I write to you in response to the article on the front page of The Echo relating to mandatory vax. I find it extremely...

End the cult

A military conflict between China and the USA would very likely result in global nuclear war, a major setback to human civilisation and possibly...

Hundreds queue to have COVID test and two new cases in the NNSWLHD

Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) is urging people to continue coming forward for testing and vaccination after two further COVID-19 cases were reported in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, October 14. 

Charges after cars damaged in police pursuit – Coffs Harbour

Police say a man has been charged following a pursuit, where a number of cars – including an unmarked police car – were sideswiped on the Mid-North Coast yesterday.