Could the Ultimate Waste Product Produce Electricity?

10/18/2013 |

Microbial fuel cells turn organix matter into electricity.

Scientists have developed a new way to generate enough electricity to power a mobile phone – and it’s “about as eco as you can get it,” according to Ioannis Ieropoulos, a member of the research team. That product is urine.

By harnessing the power created when urine passes through a cascade of microbial fuel cells, scientists were able to capture enough energy to charge a Samsung mobile phone. A microbial fuel cell is an energy converter, which turns organic matter directly into electricity through the metabolism of live microorganisms.

The phone had enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing, and to make a brief phone call.

“We are very excited as this is a world first, no one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it's an exciting discovery,” says Ieropoulos. “The concept has been tested and it works – it's now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop microbial fuel cells to fully charge a battery.”

How could this affect you?

Scientists believe that this technology has the future potential to be installed into bathrooms and generate sufficient electricity to power showers, lighting, or razors. The team is already bidding on funding to develop a smart toilet.

Video was created by BRL, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK.

The study was conducted by UK's University of Bristol and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Gates Foundation, and the Technology Strategy Board. More information at the project can be found on the Bristol Robotics Laboratory website.

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