Through determination, perseverance, and hard work, these underage overachievers are changing the faces of sustainability, communication, and life for the impoverished.
1. Four Nigerian students have invented a generator powered by urine. Yes, you read that correctly!
Akindele Abiola, Duro-Aina Adebola, and Faleke Oluwatoyin, all 18, and 19-year-old Bello Eniola were only 14 and 15 when they managed to harness the hydrogen present in urine. From only a litre of urine, they were able to provide 6 hours of electricity. The genius invention was revealed in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2012 at Maker Faire Africa, an event dedicated to showcasing inventiveness and innovation.
Generators are used in North America primarily during emergencies, but according to Maker Faire Africa, Lagos experiences power outages several times every day. Many families rely on backup generators, and the availability of urine makes this invention ideal.
The girls’ generator works by holding urine in an electrolytic cell, which separates the hydrogen from the fluid. The hydrogen is purified, then the moisture is removed, and finally, it is pushed into the generator. Hydrogen is highly flammable and poses an explosion risk, but the girls minimize that risk by using one-way valves throughout the mechanism. There’s no doubt that this invention will improve the lives of many people living without reliable power all over the world.
2. DryBath is the name of a waterless shower product developed by South African college student, Ludwick Marishane. In areas where clean water is scarce, personal hygiene suffers.
Marishane believes that his product, which kills 99.9% of germs and saves 40 litres of water per use, will quell diseases that are caused by poor hygiene. After application, the product residue can be wiped away with a cloth to remove dead skin cells as a shower would, or left on the skin to moisturize it.
The product is safe for hair and genitals and eliminates body odour; in fact, it was invented after Marishane’s encounter with a smelly friend! When corporations sell DryBath, it allows the price of the product to be reduced for low-income families without access to water. Marishane’s invention is set to change the lives of those without access to clean water, and may even be adopted by airlines and militaries!
Sources: gizmodo.com, headboy.org (Marishane’s product website)
3. Elif Bilgin is a Turkish student who developed a way to turn banana peels into bioplastic when she was only 16.
Bilgin discovered that the cellulose and starches present in banana peels can be used to create a plastic suitable for making prosthetics, and insulating electrical wires. Her project took two years of research and attempts, and her efforts won her the 2013 Science in Action award for a practical, innovative discovery. Bilgin hopes that her discovery will replace some petroleum-based plastics; petroleum is a product of crude oil and is not sustainable. Bilgin is very passionate about reducing pollution caused by petroleum-based plastics and her dream is to create a greenhouse made entirely of waste products. In Thailand, for example, 200 tonnes of banana peels go to waste every day, and now the technology exists to turn this significant amount of waste into usable plastic that is safe for medical use. Bilgin’s discovery is destined to revolutionize the plastics industry.
Sources: inhabit.com, blogs.scientificamerican.com