Mexican engineer extracts gas from urine to heat shower

Mexican engineer Gabriel Luna-Sandoval has invented a machine that he said can transform urine into a biogas to serve as a household heater to take hot showers or cook.

Mexican engineer Gabriel Luna-Sandoval was urinating one day when he realized that the yellow liquid could be of “vital” use elsewhere.

Nine years later, he invented a machine that he said can transform urine into a biogas to serve as a household heater to take hot showers or cook. The idea has been taken seriously by the Mexican Space Agency, which told AFP in a statement that it is a "great innovation" with "high viability to be considered in space technology and for space walks."

The mechanical engineer created a clear acrylic container, which looks like a square vase, in which urine is poured. His prototype, which measures about 20-square-centimeters, has stainless steel electrodes to send electricity into it in order to separate oxygen and hydrogen, with the latter becoming a biogas.

The container would be connected to a home’s pipes through which the biogas would travel to heat the water in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Families wouldn’t have to worry about their food or showers having the stench of urine: The biogas has no smell. When nature calls, a man could fill the container by using a special urinal with a tube linked to the machine. It would be more complicated for a woman, who would have to urinate into a container and then pour the content into the cube.

Also, a tight seal ensures that the smell of urine doesn’t escape the container, though cleaning it would entail having to withstand the smell.

The engineer thought about colleagues who were doing urine therapy, the practice of drinking one’s own urine in the belief that it can cure ailments. “Between jokes, they told me that it’s salty,” he said, and that made him realize that urine was an electrolyte.

“How much urine goes to waste?” he wondered. An adult produces 1.4 liters of urine per day, or 25,550 liters in the span of 50 years. His invention requires just 13 to 21 ml of urine for a 15-minute hot shower, he said. Cooking beans for one hour demands only 70 to 130 ml of the golden liquid.

He’s looking at other uses. The hydrogen that is created in the container could be used for engines with internal combustion and he will test it on small electricity generators.

His invention caught the attention of the governmental National Science and Technology Council. Ulises Cano, a member of the National Researchers System of Mexico, said Luna-Sandoval’s invention “is not absurd.”

While Cano did not review the invention, the electrochemistry expert said it is “technically viable, but you would have to look at its economic viability.”

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