Spend a penny to generate electricity

A prototype toilet that generates electricity from urine has launched — near a students’ union bar.

The boffins behind the ‘pee-power’ toilet hope it can be used by aid agencies in disaster zones to supply much-needed ‘urine-tricity’ to refugee camps.

The urinal is the result of a partnership between researchers at the University of the West of England in Bristol and Oxfam.

It is located near the students’ union at the university’s Frenchay campus and researchers are hoping for brisk business at closing time.

Students and staff are being asked to use the urinal to donate pee to fuel the microbial fuel cell stacks that generate electricity to power indoor lighting.

The research team is led by Ioannis Ieropoulos, of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE Bristol, who is an expert at harnessing power from unusual sources using microbial fuel cells.

“We have already proved that this way of generating electricity works,” said Ieropoulos.

“This exciting project with Oxfam could have a huge impact in refugee camps.

“The microbial fuel cells work by employing live microbes which feed on urine for their own growth and maintenance.

“This technology is about as green as it gets, as we do not need to utilise fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will be in plentiful supply.”

The urinal on the university campus resembles toilets used in refugee camps by Oxfam to make the trial as realistic as possible.


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