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How Nigerian scientist developed method for producing flammable gases from urine

By Chukwuma Muanya
29 November 2018   |   3:13 am
A Nigeria scientist, Ejikeme P. Nwosu, has thrown more light on how he fabricated equipment that converts urine into flammable gases, biomethane and hydrogen-rich gases, with 100 per cent indigenous technological inputs. The Innovation was awarded an Invention Patent Right of Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2014 while the abstract was published in 2005 by…


A Nigeria scientist, Ejikeme P. Nwosu, has thrown more light on how he fabricated equipment that converts urine into flammable gases, biomethane and hydrogen-rich gases, with 100 per cent indigenous technological inputs.

The Innovation was awarded an Invention Patent Right of Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2014 while the abstract was published in 2005 by the American Chemical Society (world’s largest scientific society).

Nwosu, a graduate of Pure and Industrial Chemistry from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (NAU), Anambra State with Masters of Science degree in Organic Chemistry from the University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo State, told The Guardian: “With proper will, support and funding, this technology can generate over 50,000 megawatts of electricity for the country for use and possible export; from human/animal wastes alone.

“Whether we want or not, our crude oil reserves will be depleted in decades to come, if we do not do the needful we may have to import these technologies at exorbitant price.”

Nwosu had told The Guardian last year that a blend of these gases- biomethane and hydrogen-rich gases- can be effectively used to run a gas turbine generator to give the nation over 11,250 megawatts hours of electricity.

Biomethane is a 100 per cent renewable energy source produced by the natural breakdown of organic material: green waste, household waste, agricultural waste, food industry waste and even industrial waste.

The chemist explained: “It all started many years ago using personally fabricated equipment to distill ammonia from urine, followed by acquisition of basic laboratory equipment and more fabrications to produce hydrogen-rich flammable gases from urine.

“We did not relent on just developing a method for producing flammable gases from urine after securing the invention patent right, because a lot still need to be done to get the outcome of this project easily to everyone’s door step for consumption. For instance, there was no existing equipment available for successful conversion of urine into flammable gases using our method on a commercial scale.

“Secondly, the process still needs more fine tuning for products optimization and automated precision during operation.

“These two challenges we have been able to overcome which culminated in the award of two invention patent rights recently by the federal government of Nigeria.”

He said one of the invention patent rights is for the design and development of equipment for producing flammable gases from urine and this equipment was named Patrium Flask Reactor.

The other invention patent right, Nwosu said, is for developing a novel means of generating biomethane from biodegradable wastes, hydrogen-rich gases from urine and blending these gases in controlled proportion for use in either electricity generation or for cooking purposes.

“We used urine diverting toilets to separate urine from feces, the feces and other biodegradable wastes are converted to biomethane in the biodigester while separated urine are converted into hydrogen-rich flammable gases with the aid of the Patrium Flask Reactor,” the chemist said.

He said the innovation makes it easier to overcome one of the biggest challenges of hydrogen technology, storage.

“Having a blend of these avalanches of gases (hydrogen, methane, ammonia, hydrazine) in a single storage reduces the high pressure exerted by hydrogen if it were to be alone in line with Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressure. At reduced pressure, storage is easier and the cost of storage is also cheaper,” Nwosu explained.

The chemist further explained: “Apart from this, usage of a blend of hydrocarbon (methane etc.) with hydrogen gives better flammability, reduces the carbon load contribution to the atmosphere and provides more heat that would ensure better combustion.

By products of our process has a lot of economic importance; organic fertilizers, fire resistant substances and more are part of them.

“Some days ago, one of our Canadian contact, Greg Vezina, that drove a car on ammonia decades ago informed me of a research project going on in the United Kingdom (UK). The HyDeploy project, which is being called the first trial of its kind in the UK, has been approved safe for testing. The project involves injecting hydrogen into an existing natural gas network. The purpose of the project is to see if blending hydrogen with gas can help reduce the country’s carbon emissions produced by heat.

“In fact, this same project is what we have been working on here in Nigeria, although on smaller scale based on our financial muscle. While the HyDeploy hydrogen project is a multi million pounds project, the Ticlob-Lumos project we champion cannot boast of such financial muscle….”

Meanwhile, a high school student in Zimbabwe has developed a method of generating electricity using biodegradable resources.

The student, Macdonald Chirara created a biogas digester setup, which converts organic waste into electricity. The technology uses readily available resources such as animal waste and a local invasive plant to produce biogas.

In Chirara’s community in Zimbabwe, people often face electricity shortages and they use firewood as a source of energy.

This practice can add to increased rates of deforestation and contribute to global climate change. Chirara wants to offer an alternative way to produce electricity for his community.

“Biogas has the potential to provide clean renewable energy and to facilitate sustainable development of [an] energy supply for Zimbabwe and Africa at large,” Chirara said.

His work was selected by his local science fair for recognition with a Society for Science & the Public Community Innovation Award.

This award honors students participating in science fairs around the world who are making a difference in their communities. In 2018, the Society rewarded 20 young scientists with $500 prizes — and Chirara was one of them.

Meanwhile, University of Southern California (USC), United States (U.S.), researchers have developed a polio vaccine that does not require refrigeration, meaning it could someday be used all over the world to deliver the final blow to this longtime foe.

The injectable vaccine, which was freeze-dried into a powder, kept at room temperature for four weeks and then rehydrated, offered full protection against the polio virus when tested in mice.

The study appeared in the November 27 issue of the journal mBio.

Polio is on the brink of complete eradication, with just 22 reported cases worldwide in 2017.

The highly infectious disease, which causes lifelong paralysis and disability mostly in young children, is a fading memory in many places. Yet in countries where vaccination rates are spotty, young children are at risk.

The biggest hitch to complete eradication has been creating a temperature-stable vaccine for use in developing countries where refrigeration may be unavailable. Recent polio cases have been reported in Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Syria and Pakistan.

In the United States, the polio epidemic reached its height in the 1950s. In 1957, mass immunization brought the annual number of cases down from 58,000 to 5,600. Since 1979, no cases of polio have originated in the United States.

By removing moisture through freeze-drying, researchers have created temperature-stable vaccines for measles, typhoid and meningococcal disease. But scientists haven’t been able to make a polio vaccine that retains potency through freeze-drying and rehydration.

Shin and his colleagues used two lab techniques — liquid chromatography and high-throughput screening — that allowed them to analyze a high volume of ingredients and formulations until they found one that worked.

Jung’s hope is that a foundation or company will take over the project to pay for human studies and bring the injectable vaccine onto the market.

In addition to Shin, the study’s authors are Daiki Hara and Jae Jung of the Keck School of Medicine, and Francisca Gbormittah, Hana Chang and Byeong S. Chang of Integrity Bio Inc.

Integrity Bio is a company that specializes in biologics, or medicines made from substances found in living things.

Meanwhile, deep-sea microbes that could help clean up devastating oil spills have been discovered at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists identified nearly two dozen new species of microbe, many of which gobble up greenhouse gases and other waste to survive and grow.

They said the tiny creatures could one day remove climate-altering chemicals like methane from the atmosphere, or even oil following ocean spills.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin explored microbes in the extremely hot, deep-sea sediments located in the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California.

A number of them use chemicals known as hydrocarbons, including the greenhouse gas methane, as an energy source.

These pollutant-eating creatures were found to be so genetically different from known microbes that they represent new branches in the tree of life.

“This shows the deep oceans contain expansive unexplored biodiversity,” said study lead author, Dr. Brett Baker.

“Beneath the ocean floor huge reservoirs of hydrocarbon gases – including methane, propane, butane and others – exist now, and these microbes prevent greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.”

Experts analysed sediment 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) below the surface, where volcanic activity raises temperatures to around 390F (200C).

Samples were collected using the Alvin submersible, the same sub that found the Titanic, because the microbes live in extreme environments.

In total, recovered 551 genomes, and Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA) analyses showed 22 of them represented new entries in the tree of life.

Their genes suggest the microbes take in hydrocarbons to survive and grow, an unusual trait that could be used to clean up pollutants in future.

Only about 0.1 percent of the world’s microbes can be cultured, which means there are thousands, maybe even millions, of microbes yet to be discovered.

“We think that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of diversity in the Guaymas Basin,” Baker said.

“So, we’re doing a lot more DNA sequencing to try to get a handle on how much more there is.

“This paper is really just our first hint at what these things are and what they are doing.”