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New discovery now enables us to use urine to power cellphones

By Jonathan Lam     Jul 17, 2013 in Technology
Bristol - A group of researchers from the University of the West of England has discovered a way to charge cellphone devices by using urine.
Microbial fuel cell is the key to converting urine into an energy source that can charge our cell phone devices. MFC for short, microbial fuel cell is an energy converter. It takes one form of energy and converts it to something different. The microbial fuel cell contains live organisms and bugs, the same types of bugs found in soil. The bugs feeding off fuel produces electrons as they consume the matter and it is this natural process that creates a small electrical charge to be stored in the microbial fuel cell.
“No one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it's an exciting discovery,” said Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, an engineer at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory where the fuel cells were developed.
“The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually reusing waste to create energy. One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine.”
The microbial fuel cell's electrical charge is stored in a capacitor after the urine has been processed. For the first test, researchers plugged in a commercial Samsung phone charger and it was able to charge up the handset. Though the amount of electricity generated by the microbial fuel cell is only enough to make one mobile call, researchers hope in the future it can be installed in bathrooms to help power electric razors, toothbrushes and lights.
The ultimate goal is to make this invention smaller. Dr Ieropoulos claims, "The fuel cells we have used to charge a mobile phone with hold around 50ml of urine but the smallest we have had working in the laboratory hold 1ml, so we can make them a lot smaller. Our aim is to have something that can be carried around easily.”
“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.”
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