It’s called the ‘pee powered’ urinal and though it sounds weird, it seems to be turning human urine into electricity.
A prototype toilet has been launched on a UK university campus to prove that urine can generate electricity. Conveniently situated near the Student Union Bar at the University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol the urinal is proving what it is set out to do. The prototype urinal is the result of a partnership between researchers at UWE Bristol and Oxfam. They are hoping the pee-powered technology will light cubicles in refugee camps, which are often dark and dangerous places particularly for women.
Students and staff are being asked to use the urinal to donate pee to fuel microbial fuel cell (MFC) stacks that generate electricity to power indoor lighting. The research team is led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulous, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Center located in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE Bristol. Ieropoulous said: “The microbial fuel cells work by employing live microbes which feed on urine (fuel) for their own growth and maintenance.” Researchers at Bristol BioEnergy Center made national headlines in 2013 when they demonstrated the same technology can use urine to charge a mobile phone. “This technology is 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,” said Ieropoulos.
Andy Bastable, Head of Water and Sanitation at Oxfam said: “Oxfam is an expert at providing sanitation in disaster zones, and it is always a challenge to light inaccessible areas far from power supply. This technology is a huge step forward. Living in a refugee camp is hard enough without the added threat of being assaulted in dark places at night. The potential of this invention is huge.” An estimated 6.4 tn liters of urine is produced by humans across the globe every year, so researchers believe it has a great potential as a cheap and readily available source of energy. Ieropoulous said the unit installed at the university would cost around 600 pounds to set up.