May 8, 2016
Go Green By Taking A Pee! -- Urine-Powered Batteries Offer A Cheap Energy Source

Researchers at the University of Bath have created a battery that is powered by urine, literally giving people the ability to "go green by taking a pee."

According to Inhabitat, the Bath researchers, along with colleagues from Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Bioenergy Centre, have utilized the bacteria-based battery that was first demonstrated by researchers in the Netherlands and made it their own. What the Netherlands researchers created was a microbial fuel cell, or an MFC, that is powered by acetate. The miniature devices use bacteria to perform reduction and oxidation reactions on said organic material of choice (acetate) in which electrons are swapped around between molecules producing electricity. The reactions are controlled and occur in a closed system consisting of an anode and cathode thus making it a battery. The only difference that Bath researchers and their fellow colleagues have with their MFC is the organic material of their choice is, well, human urine.

Despite presumptions of disgust many people may have of the idea, the urine-powered battery is being promoted as a green option that can be used in the future. Right now, there are cell phones that are powered by human urine which to many people, seem like a great idea given how much of a necessity they have become especially to those living in First World countries and how much power they consume. Yet, what people fail to realize is the urine-powered cell phone is technically a urine-powered battery used to power a cell phone.

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Nevertheless, the benefits of using urine for MFC are tantamount. For starters, it is free and available to everyone, everywhere. Everyone pees ergo everyone can provide the organic supply for these urine-powered batteries, making it an excellent source of energy for people who live in countries that do not have a ready source of electricity or cannot afford a ready source of electricity, such as many Third World countries. According to Gizmag, there is no decomposition time necessary for the reactions to occur, making them ready-to-use out of the box.

Also, using the urine-powered batteries is a prime example of extreme recycling, something the green community will surely like. It is the taking of a true waste product to humans, something that would otherwise be lost, and harnessing it into useful energy without any form of pollution associated with other fuel sources like the burning of fossil fuels or nuclear reactions.

Dr. Mirella Di Lorenzo, the co-author of the paper detailing the findings of urine-powered batteries published earlier this year in Electrochimica Acta, provided the following statement on them.

"Microbial fuel cells can play an important role in addressing the triple challenge of finding solutions that support secure, affordable, and environmentally sensitive energy, known as the 'energy trilemma.' There is no single solution to this 'energy trilemma' apart from taking full advantage of available indigenous resources, which include urine."
The next step for the researchers is to figure out how to amplify the energy output of the urine-powered batteries. They discovered that extending the length of the electrodes from four to eight millimeters increased power output tenfold. The same goes when multiple urine-powered batteries were stacked.

[Photo by David Becker/Getty Images]