A device has been created by researchers at the University of the West of England which revealed that Pee can be converted into electricity with the help of bacterial metabolism.
"The technology in the prototype is based on microbial fuel cells (MFC), which, like batteries, has an anode and a cathode," explains Irene Merino, who is a researcher on the team thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and works alongside another Spanish worker, Daniel Sánchez.
The cells are installed inside a male urinal and are further decomposed which releases protons releases both protons, which travel from the anode to the cathode across a semipermeable membrane, and electrons, which travel through an external electrical circuit. To complete the cycle, an oxygen reduction reaction also takes place in the cathode. The process generates enough energy to power light bulbs or LED tubes.
Only two field tests have been done yet: one at the campus of their university which generated an average of 75 mill watts, with limited numbers of participants, and another at Glastonbury festival, which generated 300 mW last year where it was tested by around a thousand users per day.
COD removal was above 95% with the campus device and around 30% at the festival.
The findings have been published in the journal Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology. More cells, more milliwatts.
"The ultimate purpose is to get electricity to light the toilets, and possibly also the outside area, in impoverished regions, which may help improve the safety of women and children, in countries where they have to use communal toilet facilities outside their homes," concludes IoannisIeropoulos, the Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre (BRL, UWE), who leads the research.