Scientists in Bristol UK, have successfully used urine to charge a mobile phone in a technological revolution that might help phone users across Africa where power outrages are common.
They have created a fuel cell that uses bacteria to break down the liquid waste to generate electricity.
They were then able to plug in a mobile phone to charge up its battery
The discovery was made by Dr Loannis Leropoulos, an engineer at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in England. He tried out a fuel cell that uses bacteria to break down the liquid waste to generate electricity.
The technique uses microbial fuel cells as energy converter, which turns organic matter directly into electricity, via the metabolism of live microorganisms.
“No one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it’s an exciting discovery” Dr Loannis said. He added that “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” he added.
When the technology becomes widely available, it will ease the pain of mobile phone users from Wantugu village in Ghana, through Gakawa in Kenya’s rift valley province to Kompisi village in Zimbabwe where power outages are common
The researchers, whose findings are published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics grew bacteria on specially made carbon fibre anodes that were inserted inside ceramic cylinders to create a battery-like circuit.
When urine was passed through the cylinders, the bacteria broke down the sugar and other chemicals it contained down to produce electrons, building up a small electrical charge inside the fuel cell.
“We are currently bidding for funding to work alongside partners in the US and South Africa to develop a smart toilet” the engineer noted.
Part funding for the discovery came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Reacting to the breakthrough, one twitter account user said: “great discovery, but very soon, we will be taxed for going to the toilet”.
“Brilliant, now all the drunks who get caught by the police urinating up on the wall have a perfect excuse: I was just charging my mobile phone using my urine, officer” twitted Sanityone.