July 17, 2013
Pee Powered Batteries Coming To A Smartphone Near You
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
In the future, if your smartphone has started to show 20 percent battery life, you may need to grab a bottle of water and find a toilet to charge it up.
Researchers from the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory said they have created a fuel cell that uses bacteria to break down urine to generate electricity. The team wrote in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy that they have created the world's first "ultimate waste product."
The team said they were able to charge a Samsung mobile phone using urine as it passed through a cascade of microbial fuel cells (MFCs). The team believes this technology could eventually be installed in bathrooms to harness urine and produce sufficient electricity to power showers, lighting or razors.
"The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun, we are actually re-using waste to create energy," Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said in the journal.
Leropoulos said that he and his colleagues were able to generate enough power through human waste that they powered a smartphone with enough energy for SMS messaging, web browsing and making a brief phone call.
"Making a call on a mobile phone takes up the most energy, but we will get to the place where we can charge a battery for longer periods," he said. "The concept has been tested and it works - it's now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery."
In order to create the pee-power, the team had to grow bacteria on carbon fiber anodes and place them inside ceramic cylinders. The bacteria broke down chemicals in urine as it passed through the cylinders, building up a small amount of electrical charge which was stored on a capacitor.
The electricity being produced is a by-product of the microbes' natural life cycle. The more the microbes eat, the more energy they generate and for longer periods of time.
"Using the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity is about as eco as it gets," Leropoulos said.
Believe it or not, this is not the first pee-powered battery. In 2005, Physicists in Singapore created the first paper battery that generated electricity from urine. These researchers envisioned the battery powering disposable healthcare test-kits for diseases like diabetes.