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Yes, urine is used in African girls’ electricity generator - but it’s more complicated than that

A picture shared on Facebook shows three girls crouched around what look like cylinders linked to a battery and a generator. The text below reads: “Four African girls have created a generator that produces electricity for 6 hours, using a single liter of urine as fuel.”

Fact-checking site Snopes has previously fact-checked the claim. They found that it was  a “mixture” of both truth and falsity.

The picture does show Nigerian school girls who made a device that used urine to produce hydrogen, a gas that can be used to run a generator. The four girls submitted the project to a science fair held in Nigeria in 2012.

Goal was less carbon monoxide

In a 2015 documentary detailing their efforts which brought them wide recognition, the girls said the choice of urine was because it was cheap and widely available.

The picture claims the device can produce six hours of electricity. But it wasn’t clear what load it could carry in that period, with different photos showing it either powering simple light bulbs or a wall light and a television.

Hydrogen gas generators already exist, while the idea of using urine to produce electricity is not novel. Scientists interviewed by the media also said that the girls’ device required more electricity than it generated, making it inefficient.

The waste product from their project was water vapour, the girls said. And coming up with a generator that emits less carbon monoxide was their main goal with the device, one of them, Adebola Duro-Aina, 15, said.

Carbon monoxide can have serious health consequences, especially in confined spaces.

Generators are a common sight in Nigeria, where electricity production struggles to keep up with demand. In this regard, the girls’ practical work was widely described as noteworthy.

The next challenge for them is to make it more efficient, and more portable, they said.  – Africa Check (21/01/19)  


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