Washington: Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have developed an aluminium nano-powder that turns urine into hydrogen instantly, which can power fuel cells and provide clean energy.
Scientists from the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) had earlier announced that their nano-galvanic aluminium-based powder produced pure hydrogen when coming into contact with water.
The researchers observed a similar reaction when adding their powder to any liquid containing water. They also found that adding it to urine releases hydrogen at a much higher rate than with ordinary water, researchers said.
"What we do as Army scientists is develop materials and technology that will directly benefit the soldier and enhance their capabilities," said Kristopher Darling, an ARL researcher.
"We developed a new processing technique to synthesise a material, which spontaneously splits water into hydrogen," he said.
Hydrogen, the most plentiful element in the universe, has the potential to power fuel cells and provide energy to future soldiers.
Fuel cells generate electricity quietly, efficiently and without pollution. They are "more energy-efficient than combustion engines and the hydrogen used to power them can come from a variety of sources," researchers said.
"We have calculated that one kilogramme of aluminium powder can produce 220 kilowatts of energy in just three minutes," said Anit Giri, also an ARL researcher.
For soldiers in austere environments, power and energy is becoming increasingly important to run communications and electronics gear for away teams, which can not be resupplied.
Making use of urine as fuel source may result in tremendous benefits for soldiers, officials said.
The team will continue to investigate and push the limits of the discovery, to try and understand its implications.