Could Pee Power be the New Clean Energy of the Future?

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

-William Pollard

Sometimes, just the threat of a crisis, big or small, forces us to step away from our comfort zone and think and act “outside of the box” – so to speak.

What happens when you run out of furniture polish? You may remember that olive oil actually works to dust furniture – without dangerous chemicals at that. Or how about when your children ask to go camping and it is pouring rain? Can you create an awesome campground right in your living room? Sure you can!

Innovation, some say, is in the heart of every man – it is just a matter of feeling uninhibited enough to release all that creativity. Innovation comes from a need, a need to express, act or find a solution.

While mainstream media continues its attempts to scare us about our current energy crisis and depleting resources, some brave forward-thinkers are actually stepping out and stepping forth with what they think is the answer to the so-called energy crisis we are facing.

Is it possible that we are not facing a lack of resources at all, but rather a lack of many other things, including creativity, innovation, boldness and uninhibited ambition?

The thirst for energy

Could the “dilemma” that our earth’s oil tank is running low be just the spark we need to shift our thoughts forward and go “where no man has gone before?” This is exactly what happened to a group of 14-year-olds one year ago in Lagos, Nigeria, where over 80 million people have absolutely no access to electricity. Even those who do have access cannot count on the supply – as it may black out at any time.

It is not uncommon for new ideas to be birthed in third world countries where people are hungry to solve everyday problems using only what they have. They don’t have the money, technology or other resources that we have here in America, and any alternative energy sources that do exist are capital intensive, making it impossible for most to use. This, however, can actually work to their advantage as they engage their creative spirits and hunger for change to bring about something new and useful.

While there are many alternative energy sources available, such as solar and wind, these require equipment and money to install the equipment. What if there was a source of energy that actually resides within us and is the world’s largest waste product?

That is exactly what these innovative young scientists discovered. The group developed a generator that provides six hours of power operating solely on one liter of human urine. That’s right – a pee-powered generator that actually works by purifying hydrogen.

The teachers at the school where the group of girls created the generator are confident that this model could be applied on a larger scale to help meet the energy needs of millions of disadvantaged people in their country.

Phone-charging urinals?

Nigeria is not the only place where pee power is being studied. Scientists at a British university have come up with a way to charge mobile phones with… you’ve got it – urine! Yes, the same pee power that runs the generator project in Nigeria can also power up your cell phone!

Scientists from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in England have been working on a microbial fuel cell, known as MFC. Although the idea actually dates back almost 100 years, this team is pioneering a commercially viable model. MFCs utilize bacteria to break down organic material and create power. Since the bacteria needs a particular type of “food” to produce energy, researchers claim that urine has what it takes to light the spark!

Team leader Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos states, “urine is chemically very active, rich in nitrogen and has compounds such as urea, chloride, potassium and bilirubin, which make it very good for the microbial fuel cells.” The team has now successfully charged a Samsung handset using the fuel cell enough to enable SMS messaging, web browsing and even making a short phone call.

So, who might use a pee-powered cell phone? It may be just the answer for environmentalists and those living in rural areas where power sources are hard to find. The team continues to work towards creating a fuel cell that will fully charge a phone, with some funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They hope to also explore the opportunities for pee-powered lights, razors and other small appliances!

In this video, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory pee power project:

Urine-powered cars, refrigerators and more

Professor Geraldine Botte of Ohio University is also studying the pee technology, and feels that it is possible for it to be used on a commercial level. She says that we could even create a urine-powered car that could travel on 90 miles per gallon of urine, and a refrigerator that could produce one kilowatt of energy for about 5,000 dollars.

Where there’s a will…

Where there is a will, a need, a desire and a motivation to create, there is a way. With our non-renewable fuel sources diminishing at a rapid rate and alternative sources still being quite costly, the prospect of turning a readily available and reliable waste product into something useable has got us on the edge of our seats to see just what the first commercial pee-powered product may be.

UrinalMeanwhile, the people of Nigeria anxiously await the creation of a pee-powered generator for home use – so that they can enjoy what the rest of us so often take for granted!

-The Alternative Daily


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