It seems that when it comes to electricity generation, the future may be golden. Enter the humble pee, the new kid on the block in energy supply.
In a joint project from the University of the West of England and Oxfam, researchers have just launched a urinal that produces electricity from pee. Thanks to microbial fuel cell technology located just under the urinals, the pee ‘donated’ by students is turned into electricity used for indoor lighting.
The process is clearly described by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre: "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 utilise fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will be in plentiful supply.”
It is clearly early stages, although a previous experiment using pee to generate power to charge a mobile phone has been promising. An initial application planned for urine-tricity ‘plants’ is in toilets in refugee camps in disaster zones: without lighting at night, these can turn into very dangerous places for women.
The low cost of pee power technology, which could be built for as little as 600 GBP per unit, and its reliance on a raw material which is freely available and in abundant supply, could make urine-tricity an ideal solution even in the most resource-poor contexts.
For further information, please visit the Bristol BioEnergy Centre's website.