Every living creature, most specially humans, produce a lot of waste and scientists are starting to make us realize that our wastes are somehow, useful (eve if they are already, wastes). In the name of trash wastes, Sweden burns more than two million tons of the stuff annually—almost half of the garbage produced by the country—in order to generate electricity.
In U.K., human poop-powered buses took to the streets last November in a bid to reduce emissions and fossil fuel usage. And now, on a similar theme, scientists working at the University of the West England (UWE) have developed a “Pee-Power” toilet that, amazingly, generates electricity from urine.
Yes, you read that one right! Electricity from your PEE!
Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, project leader and director of the university’s Bristol BioEnergy Center, said the urinal uses microbial fuel cell stacks to convert the urine into electricity that powers the restroom’s electric lights.
So how do they work?
The cubicles are fitted with stacks of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that are based on microbial metabolism. The live bacteria inside the fuel cells use urine as fuel for their growth and maintenance, but as a bonus for us they produce electricity as a byproduct.
The microbial fuel cells work by employing live microbes which feed on urine [fuel] for their own growth and maintenance. The MFC is in effect a system which taps a portion of that biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity – what we are calling urine-tricity or pee power. This technology is about as green as it gets, as we do not need to utilize fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will be in plentiful supply.”
We have already proved that this way of generating electricity works. Work by the Bristol BioEnergy Center hit the headlines in 2013 when the team demonstrated that electricity generated by microbial fuel cell stacks could power a mobile phone. This exciting project with Oxfam could have a huge impact in refugee camps,” Ieropoulos said.
Furthermore, MFCs are also extremely cheap: each one costs around £1 ($1.51) to make. According to Ieropoulos, setting up a unit like the prototype outside the Union will cost around £600 ($900), which is a relatively small price tag given is a lasting product.
The prototype urinal currently resides outside of the Student Union Bar, where it is sure to receive a lot of visitors. The energy generated by the system is used to light up the cubicle, which would make it an ideal addition to refugee or displaced person camps that often don’t have electricity. But it isn’t just stumbling around at night that is a problem; these places are often dangerous for women after hours as many are abused or molested in dark areas such as cubicles. The researchers are therefore hopeful that these toilets will help make it safer for women to use the loo at night.
The researchers are trying to encourage as many students into the urinal as possible for now, which has been designed to look like the toilets used in refugee camps run by the charity Oxfam. If the ongoing trial proves that the cubicles work well, then hopefully they can be installed in areas where they are needed.
via BBC News