Urine is more powerful than you think… Researchers at the University of the West of England, Bristol have developed a Microbial Fuel Cell technology for urinals - allowing people to charge smartphones with pure pee power.
So how on Earth does this work? And what the hell are Microbial Fuel Cells? Well, it’s a pretty significant innovation that uses microorganisms to turn organic matter into an electrical current.
The microbes placed onto these cells produce electricity as a by-product, meaning the more urine they’re sprayed with, the more power they create.
Now, long time readers will know that UWE have been working on this for a while. I even wrote about this “Urine-tricity” way back in 2013 (I’m even disappointed in myself for that one).
Back then, the technology was really in its infancy, being able to only provide power to a feature phone, but as explained in their journal Applied Energy, they were able to give a Samsung Galaxy smartphone enough power to make three hours of phone calls with just 600 milliletres of pee – equivalent to one toilet break’s worth.
However, don’t expect to top up the tank completely when you empty yours… Charging a battery to full capacity requires 4.2 litres of urine (that’s 1.1 gallons), so unless you have the bladder of Gods, that’s considerably more than a single person could ever generate!
“We are excited to announce several global firsts - this development was possible by employing a new design of MFCs that allowed scaling-up without power density losses,” Professor Leropoulos, leader of the team explains.
“Although it was demonstrated in the past that a basic mobile phone could be charged by MFCs, the present study goes beyond this to show how, simply using urine, an MFC system successfully charges a modern-day smartphone.”
This paints a rather exciting future in sustainable charging – it’s a fuel source you will literally never run out of, and it’s extremely safe to use…as far as we know.
I’ll just say to the unlucky person (if there is one) that “urine” for a shocking surprise… I’ll grab my coat.
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