Mercury Facts & Photo Gallery

mercury

Until quite recently, the planet Mercury has been quite a mystery. In the early 1970s, NASA sent the Mariner 10 probe, unlocking many mysteries about this planet. There are still many things to be discovered about the closest planet to the Sun. Here is a list of many amazing Mercury facts that you may be interested in.



Planet Data :

  • Planet mass : 3.3022×1023 kg (0.055 earths)
  • Density : 5.427 g/cm3
  • Surface gravity : 3.7m/s2 (38% of Earth’s gravity)
  • Diameter : 4,879km
  • Distance from sun : 57.91 million miles
  • Surface temperature : -173 to 427 celcius
  • Length of year : 88 days
  • Length of day : 59 days
  • Discovered : 14th century BC (By Assyrian Astronomers)
  • Atmosphere : None
  • Moons : None

facts

Amazing Mercury facts :

The planet Mercury was named after the Roman god of merchants, as Mercury was the fastest traveling planet in the sky. Other ancient names were also “Udu Idim Gu”in Assyrian cuneiform tablets. In Greek the planet was called Στίλβων as well as Ἑρμάων and Ἑρμής (Hermes).

Mercury is one of five planets that can be seen without the aid of a telescope.

Mercury transits the sun (travels across the face of the sun, in front of earth) approximately every 15 years

Mercury is the smallest non-dwarf planet in our solar system.

For quite some time, it was believed that a small planet was located between the sun and Mecury. They even had a name for it – Vulcan.

There are no seasons on mercury due to it rotating so slowly around the sun. In fact, it is the only planet with this characteristic.

Mercury is the second most dense planet in our solar system.

Only two spacecraft have visited mercury

Until mariner 10 was sent to Mercury in 1973, very little was known at all about this planet. The mariner spacecraft measured the atmosphere (or lack thereof), surface and physical characteristics, took photographs of the planet, measured the magnetic field, plasma  field, conducted infrared radiometry and ultraviolet spectroscopy experiments as well.



Mercury Image Gallery

 

 

Can Venus be colonized?

In our continuing series on colonization, we bring up a close, yet often maligned planet in regards to the colonization discussion: Our twin sister, Venus.

Venera 12 surface photo taken on Venus

Venera 12 surface photo taken on Venus

Throughout history, scientists have often dreamed of visiting Venus. Once astronomers had the capability of viewing Venus closer than the naked eye via telescopes, many theorized that the planet was a lush paradise, and likely very similar to our very own Earth. Unfortunately, this idea was shattered in the mid to late 20th century, as space programs from the US and Soviet Union launched probes to land on the surface – with many destroyed before touching ground. Astronomers and scientists alike were shocked to learn the planet was the most nightmarish location in our solar system, with little similar to our own planet. The planet sports the hottest surface temperatures in the solar system, as well as an atmosphere that can crush a probe before it lands on the surface – if the winds and sulfuric acid haven’t destroyed it already.

Yet despite the atrocious conditions, Venus may one day be a location to give colonists a great place to be. Recent discoveries may have turned Venus from hell into heaven. Although it gets little fanfare from most sources, it may in fact be an attractive option, once you look past what you usually think about when studying our twin.

 

SURFACE TO SKY

Render of a potential city on Venus, high above the acidic clouds. Credit Ralph Ewig

Render of a potential city on Venus, high above the acidic clouds. Credit Ralph Ewig

As stated, the surface of Venus is a nightmare. Temperatures approach 700*F, and the atmosphere can crush many ill-prepared objects with a force that is over 90 times as strong as the pressure we live with on Earth.

Since Venus has an incredible abundance of atmosphere, it leads to the question of what the sky is like on Venus. Although its composition is significantly different than Earth, it features a “Safe Zone” that is remarkably hospitable for life. Approximately 50 kilometers above the surface of the planet, the atmospheric pressure is very similar to what we live with on Earth.

Not only is the atmospheric pressure similar (something no other planet, sans the giants offer) to ours, so is the temperature. At this height, temperatures feature a very comfortable 32*F to 122*F – temperatures you may experience on Earth.

 

BALLOON CITY

If a colony was indeed in the sky, how would it “Float”? Although floating cities have been a concept in fantasy novels and movies for a long time, Venus may be able to make it a reality. On Earth, we know of two primary lifting gasses – Helium and Hydrogen. We use these, because they are “Lighter than air”. Because of Venus’ significantly different atmosphere, lifting gasses are much different. In fact, the very air we breathe – Nitrogen and Oxygen are “Lighter than air” on Venus! This is very important, as any livable area would essentially be lighter than than the atmosphere outside. This also means that our lifting gasses – Hydrogen and Helium, are vastly more effective on Venus. For example, a standard weather balloon on Venus could hold nearly 5 pounds of weight – approximately 1.5 times as much weight as on Earth.

 

KIDS IN SPACE

One paramount question has gone unanswered in regards to space: Can we have children outside of Earth? Although to some, it may seem a strange question, it has a very important practical purpose. No one knows if fetuses develop properly in low-gravy or zero-gravity environments. Astronauts that stay in space for extended periods of time have to exercise rigorously, or else face major problems with bone and muscle loss.

If researchers do find out that children cannot be viably birthed in low-gravity environments, then many locations would have to be staffed by people born elsewhere. This makes the gravity of Venus very attractive: It is a very comfy 0.9G, or 9/10ths of Earth’s gravity. Its very unlikely that such a small difference would effect birth, even if lower gravity environments (such as the Moon or Mars) do.

 

VENUSIAN ECONOMICS

But why go to Venus, if not for babies? Venus has a few additional attractive benefits that make it a viable candidate:

  • Aside from the Earth, it is the easiest location to travel, both in time as well as cost of fuel. We find that it requires the following velocities to get to these locations in the Solar System. Venus is “Cheaper” due to its atmosphere allowing for any craft to use aerobreaking, rather than fuel (which is required for a trip to the Moon or Mars).
    • Low Earth Orbit: 9.3 – 10
    • Lunar Landing – 16.4
    • Mars Landing – 19.0 – 20.2
    • Venus “Landing” – 18.0 – 20.2
  • The “launch window” of sending spacecraft to or from Venus is 25% shorter than Mars (584 days to 780 days).
  • Solar energy in the cloud tops of Venus is abundant – solar panels pointed towards the planet would be nearly as efficient as pointed towards the sun (and much more efficient than on the moon or Mars)

 

DRAWBACKS

Venus is not without its challenges. As many know, the atmosphere and temperature are major issues which make landing on the surface of the planet extremely difficult. However, to grow any theoretical colony, resources have to be obtained on Venus, rather than imported constantly from Earth. The Soviets managed to land multiple probes on the surface of Venus, which has proved that it is possible to make it to the surface, though.

c_venera_perspective_colorbthumbnail
 (Actual picture of the surface of Venus from the Venera 14 probe. Landed March 5th, 1982. It survived for 57 minutes – nearly twice as long as planned)
The other drawback is water. Venus lacks any form of water due to both temperature and atmosphere. This may prove difficult for colonizers. However, some water vapor has been discovered by the Venus Express, which may lead to ways in which water could be extracted from the atmosphere, or through other means.
Despite the difficulties, Venus may become an attractive option for exploration as the century goes along. Although its rarely talked about, it may be one of the easiest places for astronauts to “land” on – or at least get into the temperate zone of the planet’s atmosphere.

Could Mercury be colonized?

Mercury is an often-overlooked planet when it comes to missions and discoveries. We’ve only sent a few probes there. But in the grand scheme of things, would it ever be worth colonizing the planet? How many people could it support? Where would they live? What would they do? Our goal is to theorize why one day, our innermost planet may see humans on it.

 

High resoultion photo taken by the Messenger spacecraft

High resoultion photo taken by the Messenger spacecraft

THE BIG, BRIGHT PICTURE OF COLONIZING MERCURY

To go anywhere, one must have a reason for it. Christopher Columbus discovered America while trying to find an easier route to China. America was colonized for many reasons – by the pilgrims, by the conquistadors, and also by the natives that (likely) crossed the Bering Strait.

Mercury is a rather barren planet, so what does it harbor that we have need of?

Sunlight.

Thanks to its (obviously) close proximity to the sun, the planet offers the highest amount of solar energy of any planet. The “Solar Constant”, or amount of energy available is incredible. At a peak of 14.5 kilowatts per meter -more than ten times as much as Earth – offers an unparalleled location in our Solar System. Only collectors closer to the sun may prove better, but a stable object like Mercury offers many advantages, such as available resources in which to create solar panels and the associated infrastructure.

Mercury may also offer “Peaks of Eternal Light” – areas that are constantly receiving sunlight. This, again, would make Mercury the best location in our Solar System for energy production.

Other important resources include the likelihood of ice at the polar caps, which have a very comfortable temperature of 0° C, or 32° F. Mercury also is likely to have very high amounts of Helium 3, a likely key resource in fusion reactions, as well as ores such as silicates, iron, and magnesium. This is very important, as these resources are all essential in the creation of solar panels. Think of Mercury as the Mid East of the Solar System.

 

WHERE TO LIVE

The surface of Mercury is typically nightmarish, as it can get well over 700° F during the slow-moving day cycle. However, the polar regions are (as mentioned) a balmy 0° C, which means that temperature controls would not have to be as difficult to deal with as most other destinations in our Solar System.

LIKE THE MOON, UNDERGROUND SHELTERS ARE ATTRACTIVE ON MERCURY

, as they would mitigate issues on a planet with no atmosphere. Mercury does have a magnetosphere, which protects the planet from cosmic rays, which is a huge plus.

The poles - A very odd surface feature of Mercury

The poles – A very odd surface feature of Mercury

So the likelihood of a base near the poles is perfect. Points would likely feature the aforementioned peaks of eternal light, with reasonable temperatures. Also, due to temperature, ice is likely to be found, which is a very important resource for the spacefaring society. The fewer resources that must be imported, the more viable the colony is to be. This is the same, regardless if its a colony on the Moon, or an island in one of Earth’s oceans.

 

DIFFICULTIES AND DRAWBACKS

COLONIZING MERCURY IS NOT WITHOUT ITS PROBLEMS

.lthough it is very attractive due to its proximity to the Sun, it is also a drawback. The gravitational interaction with the Sun results in more difficulty when launching craft to and from Mercury. As it stands, spacecraft launched to the planet take a significant amount of time to get there – despite being rather close to Earth.

Temperatures are also an issue when venturing beyond the polar areas. If vital resources are found outside the caps, then they may prove very difficult to extract. Mercury rotates just once every 352 days. This means that missions would need to likely take place near the terminator, which the area where day turns into night.

 

WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN?

 

Mercury is unlikely to be a primary target of the first colonization missions outside of Earth, as more attractive options exist, such as the Moon, and Mars. However, as energy requirements become larger in a spacefaring society, Mercury becomes infinitely more valuable, especially in Helium 3 becomes very important, as only the Moon, Mercury, and Uranus are attractive options for extracting.

Although its hard to put a date on when its likely we would colonize, we should likely see some attempt made between 2080 and 2120, assuming our society begins to take colonization seriously.

Extraordinarily odd cave found on the surface of Mars

pavonis-mons-skylight (Small)This is Pavonis Mons (Click to enlarge, you’ll be glad you did).

This is what once was a active volcanic mountain that has since become inactive. Originally discovered by Mariner 9 in 1971, it was recorded and not considered very noteworthy up until recently. Now it is being highly considered as a potential landing sight for human travel to this planet. The former volcano could potentially shield Mars colonists from the harsh conditions of the planet.

It is unknown how deep the cave system could go, but it is estimated that it  could be anywhere from 50m (164ft) all the way to 250m (820ft)! This could potentially harbor life due to heating below the ground. This is an additional benefit to picking such a feature as a potential human landing site.
Additional photos of the cave

Did NASA cover up an accidential nuclear detonation on Jupiter?

Apache1024c20NASA has conducted countless missions since its inception in 1958. But did NASA make a decision in 2003 that went too far, creating the first inter-planetary nuclear weapon?

First, lets start with the evidence that makes this incredible story even possible. On October 19th, 2003, an amateur astronomer named Oliver Meeckers took a low-resolution picture of Jupiter, and noted an anomaly on the planet. Just south of the equator lie a massive, black spot – one foretelling that something grim had occurred recently on Jupiter.

Such black spots were not unknown in 2003. Almost a decade prior, a comet named Shoemaker-Levy 9 created a chain of dark black spots on the planet when the comet struck the planet with immense force. The fireballs were so unprecedented, that a similar event targeting Earth would have resulted in an extinction-level event.

But what was the cause of this dark spot? NASA, nor any space administration bothered to comment on what may have happened. It is certainly plausible that a rogue comet, smaller than Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck the planet. This has been documented once, in 2009 when Anthony Wesley of Australia photographed another dark spot on Jupiter. However, NASA released an official press statement on that event.

So why did NASA fail to respond to the impact in 2003? Could it be that they had an incentive to keep mum on the reason behind the massive blemish on the Jovian titan? We would suggest that the answer may be “Yes”.

 

NASA Loves Nukes

 

Nuclear energy plays a very critical part of interstellar travel. Unlike the pictures we see of Earth-orbiting satellites and space stations, replete with massive solar arrays, probes to the outer planets cannot rely on solar panels to generate significant amounts of energy in which to run the various scientific probes on spacecraft. Therefore, NASA relies on the Radioisotope thermoelectric generator (“RTG” for short) to supply power for probes. The usage of RTGs is very prolific among deep-space probes, and has been used since the 1970s for notable probes such as Pioneer and Voyager, up through current spacecraft that are still completing their missions such as Cassini and New Horizons.

 

The Jovian Connection

So how are RTGs connected with Jupiter and a possible nuclear detonation on the planet? The answer may be found almost exactly a month before Mr. Meekers’ picture was taken. On September 21st, NASA decided, in a very odd decision, to send their RTG powered probe named Galileo hurdling into the planet as its final mission.

Shoemaker-Levy9-HSTThe reason behind the destruction was mostly sound: NASA worried that a dead probe orbiting Jupiter could eventually contaminate its moons which may harbor life. Scientists believed in 2003, as they do now, that both Europa and Callisto have significant amounts of ice water, and are theorized to have subsurface oceans which may have microbial life.

With this in mind, NASA took no chances, and sent a kill order to the probe, directing the spacecraft to a suicidal dive into Jupiter to prevent contamination. Galileo was almost instantly destroyed during its de-orbit, much in the same way it’s atmospheric probe was crushed when it was released in 1995 to conduct experiments during a descent into the hostile planet.

But did more result from crashing the probe into the planet? Some experts warned that mixing radioactive material and Jupiter may have catastrophic results. Engineer Jacco van der Worp warned, via a radio show, that the RTGs may reach critical mass due to the intense pressure in the lower atmosphere of the planet, and the elements contained within Jupiter’s deep atmosphere.

 

How It Could Have Happened

 

Some of the science behind conversion of the spent RTG canisters into an atomic weapon is difficult to reproduce, which has caused some controversy on the issue of turning a peaceful space probe into a weapon of mass destruction.

 

Documentation on how nuclear weapons were and are built is well known, but very difficult to reproduce. However, the basic idea on how to build a nuclear weapon is as follows (image from Wikipedia):

 

The “Implosion Assembly Method” was  used in the first nuclear weapon utilized over the skies of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. This method closely mirrors the possible environment of the RTGs during their descent into Jupiter. Nuclear weapons employ powerful explosives to artificially create incredible pressures, forcing the radioactive material to compress, and attain fission, creating the chain of events leading to a nuclear explosion.

Jupiter naturally creates the incredible pressures needed to compress a radioactive material to achieve fission. After all, that is how our sun shines – immense pressures force reactions in various types of atoms, creating incredible amounts of energy.

One challenge, though, to the argument of plausibility is if the type of material in Galileo’s RTG, U238, could actually create such a weapon. It is absolutely true that U238 can’t create a fissile reaction per se. However, if U238 is enriched, the result is U235, which is considered “Weapons grade” for a nuclear bomb. Could Jupiter provide the needed foundation to enrich U238? We believe so. One of the first discovered methods for creating weapons grade uranium is called “Thermal Diffusion”, which involves the transfer of heat across a thin liquid or gas to accomplish isotope separation, forcing U235 molecules to diffuse towards a hotter surface, while U238 diffuses to a colder surface. We believe that its possible Jupiter created the perfect environment for the transformation of the spent RTG cells into a a nuclear accident waiting to happen.

 

 

Turning a Molehill Into a Mountain

hst_jupiter_scarOne additional criticism of the theory is that if a reaction did indeed occur, causing the radioactive material to explode, it would not create the dark spot seen in the initial picture. This is absolutely true, as the explosive yield would be in the area of 100 kilotons of TNT (or about twice the strength of the bomb used over Hiroshima).

So how could the small reaction spark something much greater? The answer lies in what is underneath the clouds of Jupiter. The gas giant contains high amounts of tritium and deuterium. Both elements are essential parts of the other type of nuclear weapon which results in a fusion reaction. This type of reaction is the basis of what we call a “Hydrogen bomb”, which yields much more energy than a simple fissile bomb.

 

As per the picture (source: Wikipedia), once the initial reaction is created, the fusion fuel is utilized, creating a much higher yield explosion. The most powerful weapon ever created, the Tsar Bomba used the same type of principle. Given the ample fuel that is available deep within Jupiter, it is plausible that the simple fissile reaction became much, much more.

In fact, such a reaction was the basis of the sequel to the brilliant space opera, 2001: A Space Odyssey, aptly named 2010. But this reaction brings up a great question: why didn’t all of the fuel ignite, creating an even bigger explosion? One that would consume the whole planet?

The answer for this is simple: Jupiter cannot maintain the pressure needed to create fusion on its own. To create the pressures needed to sustain such a reaction requires a much larger mass, to the tune of 10 times the size of Jupiter. These entities are called brown dwarfs, and are only recently understood. Therefore, once the initial reaction of U235 had dissipated, there was little to sustain the reaction.

 

But What About the Time Delay?

The final barrier to the nuclear explosion is the simple argument of time. The probe crashed into Jupiter on September 21st, and the spot showed up on October 19th – almost a month later. How is that possible?

 

One important aspect of atmospheric density is that the denser the atmosphere is, the more resistance an object faces when moving in the direction of travel. Therefore, as the Galileo probe hurdled through the Jovian atmosphere, the drag imposed on the craft would naturally slow it down. Scientists do not know if there is a true “Core” to Jupiter, or if it is simply so dense that it becomes as hard as any given rocky bodied object in the solar system.

An expression called “Stokes Law” is the basis for calculating how long it’d take the RTG capsule to reach a depth in Jupiter to reach supercritical mass, which is found in the following formula:

V = (2gr²)(d1-d2)/9µ

where

V = velocity of fall (cm sec-¹),
g = acceleration of gravity (cm sec-²),
r = “equivalent” radius of particle (cm),
dl = density of particle (g cm -³),
d2 = density of medium (g cm-³), and
µ = viscosity of medium (dyne sec cm-²).

Applying the formula to the RTG canisters, we find that it would take just under 1 month to achieve the depth needed for the reaction – the same amount of time between the probe’s demise and the discovery of the Jovian “My stery Explosion”.

But could the RTG canisters survive so long in such a hostile environment? Galileo’s atmospheric probe only survived 53 minutes before it was destroyed at a depth of 160km and 23 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. Pulling data from the Galileo’s RTG containment field, we find that the uranium capsules were coated in iridium, which has a melting point of 4435 degrees Fahrenheit. The uranium capsules were then attached to a boron-graphite membrane that could withstand 6422 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the membrane mostly intact is an important part of the theory, as you would need at least 10 kilograms of the 45 contained within the RTG to create a fissile reaction.

Adding it all together, you have a “perfect storm” of sorts – a vehicle that may be able to withstand the temperatures and pressures needed to enrich the uranium and cause detonation, and the time lapse between the probes insertion into Jupiter’s atmosphere, and detonation.

 

And If You’re Still Not Convinced..

Even after all that has been said, our argument is merely a “What if” scenario of the perfect storm. But could such an event happen again? Space enthusiasts should take note of the following points:

  1. The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter – the first nuclear-powered probe (using an actual reactor) was cancelled shortly after the Galileo indecent.
  2. NASA has virtually abandoned RTG creation for new probes since the Galileo indecent (the citation being “Cost” to restart the lines needed to create the materials needed for new RTGs)
  3. NASA’s substitute for the JIMO mission is using solar panels instead of an RTG – despite the fact that the craft will receive only 4% of the solar energy a similar probe would receive in orbit around Earth
  4. The few probes that employed RTGs post-Galileo have have virtually no risk of crash landing into a gas giant, such as the New Horizons mission, which is traveling to Pluto.
  5. NASA has significantly discouraged the usage of RTGs in the wake of Galileo. Only New Horizons and MSL have been launched featuring RTGs in the past decade.
  6. The one probe currently still utilizing an RTG and orbiting a gas giant, Cassini-Hyugens has been continually extended, preventing decision about its fate. The spacecraft’s initial mission was for approximately 42 months. It was extended for an additional 10 years.

The final point brings the discussion to close. Ultimately, the proof is in the empiricism behind further research into this possible phenomenon. What happens if NASA decides to crash land the Cassini probe into Saturn? What if we find the same mysterious spot on Saturn? Will NASA fail to mention this? In the end, you, the reader, must decide for yourself if NASA did indeed create the most powerful weapon known to man on accident, and spark the first nuclear attack against another planet.

4 Amazing facts about Neptune

Throughout my life, I’ve always admired Neptune, our furthest planet* from the sun. As a child, I would find as many books as I could about the outer gas giants, especially Neptune. I always found it the most majestic of the gas giants, with its blue hues being a welcome contrast to the incredibly ordinary Uranus, ringed wonder Saturn, or the massive and sometimes ugly, Jupiter.

But what facts set Neptune apart from the other planets, and why should we consider these facts about Neptune?

 

Neptune Fact # 1 : Neptune is the Smallest, Most Dense Gas Giant in Our Solar System

Neptune-007Not only is Neptune the furthest out of the major planets, its also the smallest of the giants, but not by much. Its approximately 3% smaller than its neighbor, Uranus. However, it is more massive than Uranus, which makes Neptune the most dense giant in our solar system. Its density is likely due to the fact it contains heavier elements compared to the other gas giants. Neptune has the lowest amount of hydrogen and more helium when compared to the other giants in our solar system. The result is a greater density, at about 1.6 grams per centimeter.

 

 

Neptune Fact #2 : Neptune Was Found by Science, Not a Telescope

 

neptune-possible-comet-impact-100722-02The discovery of many planets in our solar system have been the result of looking up into the sky, either with eyes or telescopes. However, the discovery of Neptune is markedly different: it was discovered using mathematical models. Alexis Bouvard “discovered” the planet by completing observations of the other gas giants – Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus – which resulted in notable discrepancies in Uranus’ orbit. Mr. Bouvard noticed that there were significant irregularities with the mathematical model, and the actual orbit of Uranus. This led him to postulate that an eighth planet existed beyond the orbit of the last known planet.

His model was absolutely correct, and his facts about Neptune were found with a telescope in September, 1843 – three years after his death. Astronomers noted that his model was able to predict the orbit of Neptune to within 1 degree – which helped them find the planet in what amounted to finding a needle in not a haystack, but a barn of hay.

 

 

Neptune Fact #3 :Neptune is Blue Because of Methane

 

imagesNeptune’s color has always been fascinating to me. Its deep blue is very reminiscent of Earth’s oceans, and far more colorful than Uranus’ bluish-green color. What makes each gas giant a different color is all in what is in its atmosphere. Both Uranus and Neptune have a large amount of methane in their atmosphere, which makes them absorb red light, and reflect blue.

What would Neptune look like without the methane? One would likely have to look at Jupiter for the answer, as it is the closest planet in terms of composition, without the methane. Although, Neptune would still look very unique, as it has the most helium in its atmosphere when compared to all other planets in our solar system.

 

Neptune Fact #4 : Neptune’s Largest Moon Will Not Exist in the Future

Naiad_Recovery_v3Neptune is home to one of the most interesting moons in the solar system: Triton. Scientists believe that the moon is not natural to Neptune. That is, they believe that it was captured by the planet from the Kuiper Belt. Triton has a very strange retrograde orbit around the planet. This is causing it to inch closer and closer to the planet. Eventually, this will result in the moon reaching the Roche Limit, which will tear the moon apart, resulting either in it crashing into the planet, or creating a massive ring system around the planet, much like Saturn.

However, this isn’t to occur in a very long time. Scientists estimate that it is billions of years away. But it leads to an interesting discussion: What would Neptune look like with a large ring system?

And now you know more facts about Neptune.

Turning pee to power – Students in Africa build a revolutionary urine powered generator

4392977440_1c37eaa61cIt isn’t too often that you hear of teenagers halfway around the globe creating something cool from almost nothing.

Today however is different, four teenagers (The oldest of whom is only fifteen) have developed a very amazing way to generate electricity in their remote village in  Africa.

The process is extraordinarily simple – Take waste urine (pee) ,  feed the urine into a electrolytic cell , crack the urine into its base elements – Nitrogen, water & hydrogen. Filter the hydrogen through a normal water purifier, filter the hydrogen then through liquid borax, then feed the now pure hydrogen into a run of the mill generator.

The end result is extremely flammable, pure hydrogen which can be used to power a generator, or a airship.

While this process isn’t exactly new (It was initially developed in Athens Ohio in 2009) one of the more amazing things is the fact that these teenage girls are using materials that are all easily found in their remote part of Africa.

One of the most crucial features of this device is that it does not used platinum to generate the hydrogen. Here in the US, our electrolysis cells contain highly valuable platinum which costs a whopping $1550 per ounce. Instead, the girls are using nickel, which is extremely abundant, and quite cheap at only $7 per pound. On top of this, they are not feeding the pure hydrogen into a expensive fuel cell, rather a cheap Chinese generator. The result is cheap, rugged and will run off 6 hours from one liter of urine.

This technology will be of great use in Africa. It could also have a important role in here in the United States, but not for consumers. Instead, this could be utilized to produce additional electricity in space, as hydrogen fuel cells are becoming more of a mainstay in space exploration equipment.

Only time will tell if this technology becomes widespread. At any rate, we think this is pretty cool when kids develop something amazing.