Researchers in Great Britain are working on a new way to harness the power of a resource that usually gets flushed


There have been more than the usual number of articles about, well, pee on the site lately. The “usual number” being zero. But forgive me for doing this one more time; I think this is pretty cool.

We talked about pee-cycling with Jeff Ruggiero and the science behind it with Kim Nace. Now I’d like to introduce urine-tricity. Really.

Scientists at the University of the West of England, partnering with Oxfam, have developed a urinal restroom that converts urine to electricity. The technology behind using urine to provide power isn’t new. The idea here is to provide a renewable energy source to light the bathrooms and other areas, primarily in refugee camps where making a trip to the restroom in the dark can be a dangerous event, especially for women.

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The UWE research team is led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre located in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE Bristol. He explains in a statement, "The microbial fuel cells (MFCs) work by employing live microbes which feed on urine 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.”

He goes on to say the microbial fuel cells are cheap to make, and the demo unit was made operational at little cost. Once these units are set up, the free and never-ending supply of “fuel” makes this project a very sustainable one.

It’s pretty cool to know that the portable sanitation industry influences innovation all over the world and plays a big part in the effort to keep people safe and healthy.

Related: From the Editor: Is Your Service Scent-sational?

Check out a video on the project from the University of the West of England-Bristol.


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