How desperate have you been to charge your cell phone? If you knew your own pee could charge it enough to make just one call, send a text or check Google Maps, would you do it?
Thanks to some English scientists who claim to have harnessed the power of urine to charge a mobile phone, this may actually be possible in the near future. Researchers from Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaboration between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol, were able to pee on microbial fuel cells (MFCs) to create enough electricity to charge a Samsung phone.
“So far the microbial-fuel power stack that we have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, Web browsing and to make a brief phone call,” Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos said in a press release.
MFCs utilize the metabolism of live bacteria to convert organic matter into electricity. The bacteria are placed inside ceramic cylinders, and when urine is passed through, the bacteria feed on chemicals in the urine and turn it into a small amount of electricity.
“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,” Ieropoulos said.
So far, MFCs have been used only to generate small amounts of electricity for short charge and discharge cycles. This if the first time enough energy has been captured to directly charge a battery.
They idea may not be as bizarre as it first seems. It could help bring the power of smartphones to remote areas with limited access to electricity. As more advanced phones put more strain on batteries, being able to charge a phone at anytime and anywhere from a readily available source could be a game-changer.
Urine would also be a very sustainable and eco-friendly way to produce electricity. Ieropoulos’ team believes the technology could eventually be used in household bathrooms to power showers, lights or even devices like razors and curling irons. Ieropoulos said he is working to secure funding from the U.S. and South Africa to develop a "smart toilet."
“Using the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity is about as eco as it gets,” Ieropoulos said.
If the idea of hippies taking a minute to pee on their phone grosses you out, just imagine the potential for future charging stations like these at music festivals. Heck, maybe they could just put MFC technology and power outlets in the porta-potties.
This brings the importance of staying hydrated to a whole new level, and also really complicates some urinating in public laws. Could someone still get a ticket if they were only peeing to charge their phone to make an emergency call?