Scientists at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in Bristol, England successfully used urine to charge a cell phone with enough power to make a phone call, surf the web, and send some text messages. The complicated process involved running the urine through a Microbial Fuel Cell filled with microorganisms — like those found in soil and human digestion — that feed on the urine, releasing electrons in the process. The electrons in this experiment generated enough electricity to briefly charge a cell phone battery.
This urine-specific Microbial Fuel Cell technology is still in the early stages of development. The hope of lead scientist, Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos, is to eventually create a system that could be installed in homes to collect urine and convert it into power to charge the home’s small appliances. They are currently bidding for funding to develop this kind of smart toilet. Not only could you have a urine-powered cell phone, but you could also have urine-powered electric razors, tablets, and ipods. The electricity could also be harnessed to power lighting, showers, and home weather stations in cases of emergency and power outages. “One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine,” Dr. Ieropoulos said in a statement. He says that as an alternate energy source, urine will be much more reliable than the wind and sun. “Using the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity is about as eco as it gets.”
The project, which builds on 30 years of technological development, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Gates Foundation and the Technology Strategy Board. The study was published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Chemist Physics.
I can’t pretend to come close to understanding how it will work, but urine-powered cell phones cannot arrive at my household soon enough. Who wouldn’t want a charging station integrated with their bathroom toilet?