An Army research team made an unexpected discovery that could limit the number of batteries they need to carry to power devices and fueling stops they must make for military vehicles. Battery loads can weigh upwards of 15 pounds for a 72-hour mission. But, if researchers are correct, that burden could be eliminated thanks to the power potential of urine.
As reported by Fox News, the accidental discovery led a US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) team, located at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, to believe that urine can be used as a source of power.
This means that, in the future, soldiers may be able to use their own urine to create electricity for items like drones, laptops, communications equipment, and night vision devices. If this can be put into practice, troops may be able to carry significantly less weight during operations.
The technology focuses on the use of fuel cells and utilizing the hydrogen that is found in urine. ARL researchers have experimented with the concept by adding a special aluminum nano-powder to the urine, initiating a chain reaction that results in the release of hydrogen.
In less than three minutes, a kilogram, or approximately 2.2 pounds, of the powder, when combined with urine, can produce around 220 kilowatts of electricity.
The ARL team made the discovery after developing the powder, which produces hydrogen when combined with water. However, the researchers discovered it also worked with other liquids that contain water, including urine. One of the other surprises is that, when the powder was combined with urine, the reaction rate increased twofold when compared to pure water, making it a faster option too.
There are also additional benefits to the use of urine-supported fuel cells. Not only to the devices produce power, but they also create water and heat, which is also useful in the field.
Fuel cells also function differently than batteries as they never go dead and don’t have to be recharged using traditional power. As long as hydrogen is available, a fuel cell can produce an endless supply of electricity.
While hydrogen is an extremely common element, it isn’t always easily harnessed. Being able to convert urine into power provides soldiers with a source of electricity that is based on a highly available source. No matter where a military serviceman or woman is located, including in remote or isolated areas, everyone has access to urine.
Fuel cells are also especially quiet, allowing for vehicles that rely on them for power to operate in a stealthier fashion.
In Forward Operating Bases, where resources are generally limited, having a seemingly endless supply of power is highly beneficial. And, by harnessing the hydrogen found in urine, it could be achieved.