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Scientists Power Mobile Phone Using Human Urine

Bacteria stored in a fuel cell broke down chemicals in urine, generating enough electricity in the process to enable text messaging, Internet browsing, and “a brief phone call.”

What’s the Latest Development?

We can now add one more item to the growing collection of waste products being used to generate power: human urine. A team of scientists from the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory created a “microbial fuel power stack” consisting of bacteria grown on anodes and placed inside ceramic cylinders. When urine flowed through the cylinders, the bacteria broke down chemicals in the liquid and in the process generated enough electricity to enable text messaging, Internet browsing, and “a brief phone call” on a mobile phone. Details of their research was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

What’s the Big Idea?

Team member Ioannis Ieropoulos puts it simply: “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 reusing waste to create energy. One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine.” Right now the microbial fuel cell is the size of a car battery, but they hope to make it small enough to carry around so that it can be used to power domestic devices.

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