5 Amazing Potential Uses for Urine in the Future
One of humankind’s objectives for survival has been efficiency and sustainability. When we start discovering ways to use our biological waste, then we are pretty much nailing that objective.
Apparently, our pee has some fascinating qualities — enough so to warrant lots of scientific evaluation. As a result, scientists are discovering more and more possible ways to use this resource.
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Five possible uses for urine
To the surprise of many, researchers have been considering urine for several years. And when you think about it, there is a good reason. It is something that the world population creates in great abundance — around 2.8 billion gallons per day, to be exact¹.
Water crisis solution
Yes, this is disgusting to think about, but astronauts have recycled urine in space to hydrate themselves for years. Researchers are quick to warn us that this is becoming an eventuality. Since our freshwater supply is running low at a record pace, this is likely to be a ready solution.
There is also new technology that is capable of treating urine more efficiently at a lower cost². The United States National Research Council has long maintained that this is most certainly a viable long-term answer to the water shortage.
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Our urine naturally flows back into community water reservoirs in the grand scheme of things anyway, but it takes much longer for it to restore our natural water system. It would be much faster to treat our urine directly within sewage systems rather than waiting on it to return to our waters.
The council has suggested that the direct processing of urine over natural water would pose fewer health risks. In addition, we could even recover phosphorous from human urine, as it is also a dwindling resource in our natural water supply.
Grow new brain cells
Believe it or not, adults do grow new cells. But when they contract neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, they end up destroying more brain cells than they create. This brain cell shortfall leads to horrible things like dementia.
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So where could patients with these debilitating diseases get some brand new brain cells to restore their functions? Chinese scientists are convinced that the answer is in their urine³. A research team from China reported that new brain cells could be grown from human urine.
Researchers extracted cells from the urine of three different donors and transformed them into neural progenitors, which are immature brain cells that later turn into neurons or glial cells. The cells can then be grown and reprogrammed into various brain cells.
Some of these were converted into mature neurons that could create nervous impulses. Other cells were created as supportive glial cells like oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. Their cultivated brain cells were then inserted into the nervous systems of newborn rats. After a month, these brain cells were still active.
Cars that run on urine
During the past decade or so, alternative cars have become a glaring objective for science and ecology. It was creating cars that could be powered by anything other than fossil fuels that would please everyone. It seems that every alternative fuel source that has been considered comes with a glaring setback.
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Natural gas has been one hopeful option because it is abundant in our universe and can be extracted from water. However, it’s insanely difficult to create hydrogen in massive quantities that would meet the energy needed.
However, Dr. Gerardine Botte from Ohio University developed an electrolyzer that can extract hydrogen from human urine while using far less energy⁴. In short, this technology could eventually become a means of powering cars from our pee by utilizing its hydrogen.
The reason for this is that hydrogen is not as tightly bound to urine as water. Therefore, Dr. Botte’s method only needs around 0.37 volts of energy for using urine — this amounts to less than half the energy of a standard AA battery. Conversely, water needs about 1.23 volts for its hydrogen to be removed.
Experts have long claimed that the world’s CO2 levels are at all-time highs. In 2011, the average amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was 390.9 ppm (parts per million), and in 2019, it had risen to 409.8⁵.
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The harmful activities of humans like emissions from factories and vehicles are overwhelming Mother Earth. As a result, the planet gets warmer, and our bodies of water begin drying and evaporating.
Amazingly, researchers from Andalusia have found at least one way that global warming could be slowed down. Specifically, they concocted a fascinating brew of olive wastewater and human urine⁶. Their cocktail can absorb CO2 after being exposed to the air.
These scientists point out that every urea molecule in urine can produce a mole of ammonia and a mole of ammonium bicarbonate. This combination will then absorb a mole of CO2 right out of the air, which will decrease our output of greenhouse gases. After the CO2 gets absorbed, urine creates another mole of ammonium bicarbonate with which we can fertilize our farms.
The role of the olive wastewater is to prevent the urine from becoming stale and keep it at an optimal condition until it does its job.
Rubber that heals itself
We’ve all experienced the failure of rubber products in the form of broken toys and flat tires. Rubber is an excellent thing as its ability to stretch and resist has been very useful in our society. However, it easily breaks when exposed to things like heat or sharp objects.
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A French physicist name Ludiwk Liebler was inspired to solve this problem. From urine, he was able to develop a form of rubber that heals itself⁷. The basis behind this remarkable substance lies in the combination of urine’s urea molecule with vegetable oil. The result is whenever this rubber breaks, it can be simply stuck back together.
Liebler claims that this is made possible because of how fatty acids in the vegetable oil react to urea. The reaction creates a non-uniform molecular system that won’t crystallize or get rigid.
The potential uses for this new rubber are endless. While it remains a science fantasy, self-healing rubber could revolutionize things like gloves, wallets, sneakers, and tires –to name a few.
: Jonathan Kalan. (March 11, 2014). Over one billion of the world’s population still lack access to basic electricity. Could tech that tries to generate power from urine be the answer? https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140312-is-pee-power-really-possible.
: David Biello. (January 16, 2012). Gee Whiz, Why Not Recycle Urine for Drinking Water? https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/gee-whiz-why-not-recycle-urine-for-12-01-16/.
: Mo Costandi. (December 9, 2012). Turning urine into brain cells. https://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2012/dec/09/turning-urine-into-brain-cells.
: Ben Mack (July 17, 2009). Power Your Car With Pee. https://www.wired.com/2009/07/pee-powered-cars/.
: Rebecca Lindsey. (August 14, 2020). Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide.
: Manuel Jiménez Aguilar. (August 17, 2012). Urine based ‘potion’ can act as CO2 absorbent. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120817135410.htm.
: Katharine Sanderson. (February 20, 2008). Self-healing rubber bounces back. https://www.nature.com/news/2008/080220/full/news.2008.611.html.