Urine—the Next Big Thing in Clean Electricity?

You’ve probably heard the old adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Many people embrace this idea when it comes to recycling their old soda cans, water bottles and even electronics for reuse. But what about recycling their pee?

Believe it or not, some scientists are crowning urine as the newest king of clean electricity—something worth remembering the next time you use the porcelain throne.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory researchers are currently trying to transform human urine – something everybody produces – into what’s known as “urine-tricity.” Scientists this year have developed a urinal that can charge a commercially available cellular phone and even tablets using nothing but urine.

This is how the process workers: A pipe from a urinal leads to a box that contains microbial fuel cells. The fuel cells contain naturally occurring, live microorganisms. These microorganisms feed on urine and generate electrons as a result. The fuel cell electrodes then gather these by-product electrons, and when they are joined to a circuit, a current ends up being created. It’s worth noting that the more powerful the electrodes are, the greater the urine utilization rate will be.

This project has received funding from many sources, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It may seem outlandish to think that your urine – the substance you probably don’t think twice about – may actually help to save the world, but it’s a real possibility. Through scientists’ continued urine-tricity generation efforts, the world may soon come to understand and benefit from the power of pee.

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