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"Well , here is the end result... NoPoPo is a full on scam. The batteri..."

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Urine Powered Battery – Too Good To Be True?

A number of tech blogs are reporting a humorous and green-sounding new battery technology: the NoPoPo Japanese battery that can be recharged by filling it up with… urine. Sounds great, right? Free electricity! The ultimate recyclable resource! Not only that, but this battery can run on any liquid – beer, tea, juice, coffee… even water!

That’s where I stopped to think. Water? Really? How does a battery “run” on water? Every now and then a video goes around showing some garage inventor who has managed to generate energy from water, or salt water, or something like that. Every time it’s proven to be a hoax. Because you just can’t create energy out of nowhere; to quote the Simpsons, we follow the laws of thermodynamics in this household.

So then how do these batteries work? Nearly all of the posts refer to the fact that “the liquid reacts with a mix of carbon and magnesium”. They also mention the fact that the battery can only be recharged a limited number of times. But if the liquid were the fuel, why would it be limited like that?

The best explanation I found was in a comment by “retired Chemistry Professor” on the blog Hexus. He pointed out that when the liquid is introduced it allows the magnesium to oxidize, thereby generating a current. As soon as the magnesium runs out, the battery is dead. In lieu of an official explanation of the technology from the NoPoPo people, this sounds the most plausible to me.

So is there value to this battery? Maybe a little. It claims to be made of environmentally benign materials. Also, whereas a regular battery slowly dissipates its charge no matter what, maybe this one would be able to “hibernate” in between liquid injections, thereby giving you the full potential of the magnesium inside. But the battery is only rated to give you 500 mAh (milliamp hours) – as opposed to 1700-3000 mAh in a normal alkaline battery – and it’s only powerful enough to run a small device like a clock or a radio (when’s the last time you even used a portable radio?).

Moral of the story – be skeptical when someone tells you something runs on water.

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Comments (11)Add Comment
just one complaint
written by Brandon, February 18, 2009
I agree about being skeptical about energy creation when someone says it runs on water, BUT I disagree with you when you say you can't get energy from nowhere when you refer to water.

All atoms contain energy and a simple example is the atomic bomb, where an unbelievable amount of energy was created by breaking the atoms of an unstable material. We only believe that the atomic bomb works because "smart people" already figured out WHY it happens (Einstein didn't believe it at first until a friend of his explained it to him how he figured it out).

I can't say that people DO know how to create energy from water (I doubt this battery has the answer), but people have reverse engineered inventions without completely understanding the principles before.

And I just don't like when people throw out little things as if they were obvious truths (of course, truth can be subjective sometimes) just to make the point they are proving even more obvious.
written by a. brown, February 18, 2009
If it could run on water.. why would you put urine in it? I believe this may be a hoax created by 9 year olds.
Ummm... No.
written by Kris, February 18, 2009
Brandon, you're not quite right when you say that nuclear energy is an exception to the "you can't get energy from nothing" comment. 'Nuclear energy' is just that: energy derived from nuclear forces. You even essentially say that above: "All atoms contain energy". This nuclear binding energy is released when events that are energetic enough can 'split' the nucleons and thus release the binding energy deficit. This clearly isn't "energy from nowhere", then. Energy is still conserved and Thermodynamics still holds. The source of the energy is just NUCLEAR, not CHEMICAL. The above case of the battery is an example of a CHEMICAL reaction, hence Yuri's comments on Thermodynamics and the "mixture of carbon and magnesium" essentially being the fuel (with water permitting the oxidation reaction).

I suppose Yuri is assuming a certain level of scientific education on the reader's behalf. Perhaps this is wrong; although, I would certainly hope not. Regardless, explaining every point would be far beyond the scope of the story.

Also, scientific truth is NEVER subjective!!! NEVER EVER EVER! If an idea is to describe the physical world at all, it MUST be logically consistent (hence UNIQUE). If there is more than one logical interpretation of a phenomenon (i.e. it is subjective), then it simply can't be interpreted as a 'truth'. That's the whole point of scientific research: finding a logically consistent, unique, description of particualar phenomena. This holds for all true sciences (e.g. psychology could have many interpretations of a particular phenomenon since it's more of a psuedo-science - not bagging psychology at all; I think it's fascinating).

In discussing this, I'm reminded of this old post:

written by Kris, February 18, 2009
Sorry, Yoni. I mis-spelled your name :(
NoPoPo in France
written by Nick, February 19, 2009
It will be interesting to see how it is received in France where the word popo mean poop for children! NoPoop. Very good.
Symatics and confusion
written by Brandon, February 19, 2009
I guess my point came across a little skewed. I wasn't saying that the phrase "getting energy from nothing" was some sort of rule to be broken. I was just trying to make the point that getting energy from a molecule of water wouldn't be "from nothing" because all molecules contain energy. The problem is finding a way to get that energy without having to put too much in. It was based on the statement Yoni had made about the process (not the process the battery make because I don't think that this battery is doing anything complex, just the process in general)

Just to clarify, nuclear reactions are considered under the scope of chemical reactions.

I would also like to throw out there that I did mention that I didn't think that this battery was working on that level, but I guess it ended up being a little obscure (I just mentioned it in a caption thingy [whatever you call these kinds of comments]).

Lastly, the comment about truths SOMETIMES being subjective was meant to refer to truths like scurvy being a vitamin C deficiency (when it was "known" at the time to be a disease that you could catch) or Einsteins own beliefs that nuclear power could not be achieved because it did not yield enough power return on input (when they used protons to start the reaction before realizing that they needed to use neutrons). These were known to be true until proven false.

Laws are only theories that have yet to be disproven. I'm not gullible, but I don't like to just assume things to be impossible.
written by Kris, February 19, 2009
Thanks for clarifying, Brandon. I agree that it's more of an efficiency, rather than possibility, thing.

My only point re: truths was that for something to be called a 'truth', then there shouldn't be more than one explanation. So yeah: semantics.

Thanks for the clarification on the use of the term "chemical reaction"; being in physics, I typically refer to electron-transfer reactions as "chemical", and nucleon-based reactions as "nuclear". After a quick Wikipedia search I see that you're 100% on nuclear reactions now generally classed as "chemical" - it's on Wikipedia, must be true ;)
featured product on
written by Michael, February 21, 2009
written by Fred, July 16, 2009
That is a weird and interesting concept
written by liz, September 06, 2009 question is....where did u buy a battery? is it empty inside? how did you do that....sounds intereting.... pls reply as soon as possible...thank you!!!!
written by insider, February 14, 2013
Well , here is the end result...
NoPoPo is a full on scam.
The batteries have less then 150 mA capacity (when counting the 3-5 're-charges") but will deform and expand immediately after use (see wikipedia on water batteries) , this will cause the product they are used in to be completely destroyed.
Eco Friendly ? , If you need to produce 20 of these to match the capacity of 1 (one) alkaline battery , think of the resources that are being depleted and the impact of the manufacturing process....if anything these batteries are a crime against nature and completely useless while being billed as an eco friendly alternative.
Scam !

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