Urine can be turned into electricity, according to scientists.
We each produce 2.5 liters of urine a day and a total of 6.4 trillion liters globally. But until now it has been widely regarded as a rather unpleasant waste product.
However, a team of UK scientists reckon they may have found an extremely useful application for urine by turning it into electricity.
Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team of scientists at the University of the West of England, Bristol, published research this week investigating whether urine could be used in microbial fuel cells.
The paper concludes that urine is rich in chemicals that can effectively be used in the cathode half of a fuel cell to react with bacteria in the anode.
The initial tests confirmed that urine-powered fuel cells are technically feasible, and the team now hopes to scale up a prototype system capable of powering homes, businesses or even a small village.
The researchers are particularly interested in using the 38 billion litres of urine produced each day by farm animals, which can have an adverse effect on the environment if not properly managed.
The fuel cells would effectively clean the urine so that it could be safely discharged into the environment, removing the need for costly and energy-intensive treatment by wastewater companies.
Ieropoulos explained that, while the team managed to produce only a small amount of power during trials, it is now looking at stacking up the fuel cells so that the stream of urine runs through the system and produces more power.
“The impact of this could be huge, since it enables us to think of ‘waste’ in a new way, and offers great potential for the future,” he said.
Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis has said that he would consider using urine produced by festival-goers to generate electricity for the event.