How Urine Is Now Being Turned Into Electricity

Posted by on March 7, 2015 in Eco-Friendly, Environment with 0 Comments
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Image from

Colin Jeffrey | Gizmag

Human urine has been turned into all sorts of things over the centuries. Alchemists distilled phosphorous from it, it was once used for the production of gunpowder, tanners employed it in great vats to tan hides, and it has served as the basis of a myriad chemical substances, including the first types of plastics. Now yet another use for this ubiquitous liquid has been created. Researchers working at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have built a urinal that converts urine directly into electricity.

Not the first modern reuse of urine mooted in the modern era, recycling this liquid has been suggested for everything from creating hydrogen for powering cars to creating biological concrete – and even for distilling a type of sports drink. However, this latest prototype may be one of the most useful and easily-applicable yet, as it is proposed to power light cubicles in refugee camps, which are often dark and dangerous places particularly for women.

Not only is this prototype an ingenious way of providing electricity by using a set of microbial fuel cell (MFC) convertor stacks powered by urine, but it may also help to harness and reduce the vast amounts of waste liquid generated in refugee camps that often house many tens of thousands of people. This could help in reducing pollution and assisting in improving the sanitation and general living conditions, thereby relieving a little more stress factor from these already often over-burdened areas.

Based on earlier prototypes produced at UWE Bristol that were used to power mobile phones, the latest work is the result of a partnership between researchers at UWE Bristol and Oxfam. Led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory that originally built the microbial fuel cell used in these latest trials, the team has high hopes that the work will make a real difference to many of the people around the world displaced by war, famine, or natural disaster.


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