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Pee-Powered Smartphones? Scientists Turn Urine to Electricity

by Jacob Kleinman | July 18, 2013July 18, 2013 9:40 pm PST

Mobile technology has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years alone, but one area still ripe for innovation is the battery. I’m a year into my current iPhone and already it won’t last a whole day of regular use. Thankfully, a group of scientists have developed an alternative fuel source that will never run out and is often readily available: urine.

In a short video set inside a lab complete with multiple requisite shots of open jars labelled “Human Urine,” the University of the West of England’s Dr. Loannis Leropoulos describes the process of turning human waste into enough power to charge a mobile phone.

“No one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it’s an exciting discovery,” he says, pointing to a series of fuel cells and tubes that pump in urine which is then broken down by specially-grown bacteria in a process that produces electrons. While the current model is large and likely costly, future versions could be portable and cost just over a dollar.

The possibilities are endless. Portable models could be carried around for a quick charge or brought along on road trips, while larger versions could be installed in bathrooms and used to power everything from mobile devices to electric razors. The biggest markets, however, could be in developing countries where electricity isn’t available.

The research was also founded by the Gates Foundation with the hope that it could be used in those aforementioned areas with limited power grids. Forget solar and wind power, the answer to our global (and mobile) energy problems has been inside our bladders all along.

Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...