The latest in mobile technology – Pee Power

18th July 2013

A few months ago, I wrote about a new, natural way of charging your phone, as a bright inventor had developed a new charger that could be powered using a small candle.

It seems now that mobile innovators have pushed it even further in terms of naturally powered electronics. Scientists at the Bristol Robotics Lab at the University of the West of England have managed to develop a method of charging a mobile phone – using human urine.

The breakthrough came when they managed to create a brand new form of microbial fuel cell (or MFC) that was capable of turning organic matter into electricity. These MFCs are full of specially developed bacteria that are able to break down chemicals found in urine.

As part of their normal metabolic process, the MFCs produce electrons that then consume the matter, which in turn creates a small electrical charge that can be then stored in the MFC.

Scientists at the lab are quite rightly excited at their new project, as it means an unending supply of power has been created to power electrical products. Additionally, it is actually waste products that are being used as power sources, rather than relying on the temperamental power of the wind, tide, or Sun.

They tested the new power source by storing the electrical charge in a specially designed capacitor, and then plugged in a Samsung charger. This then successfully charged a Samsung handset.

Each fuel cell currently costs around £1 to produce, and the current capacitor is about the size of a car battery, but the scientists expect costs to fall, as well as the size of the capacitor to shrink down to pocket-size – that can be easily transported around as a portable charger.

It is expected that technology for day-to-day mainstream use is a long, long way off, but with the project backed by both public funding and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it seems it has the backing and the know-how to revolutionise how we use waste products and what we use for energy sources in the years to come.

 

Robin James

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