Scientists in the UK have developed a toilet that generates electricity using urine as one of the ingredients.
The “green” toilet reportedly uses what’s referred to as microbial fuel cells, or MFC, to help break down the urine, resulting in usable electricity which is collected and stored on a capacitor on the MFC.
“The microbial fuel cells work by employing live microbes which feed on urine for their own growth and maintenance,” said lead researcher Loannis Leropoulos. “The MFC is, in effect, a system which taps a portion of that biochemical energy.”
Dwindling supplies of natural resources such as fossil fuel is leading Leropoulos and others to seek out viable as well as sustainable alternatives. Urine and other bodily waste present such an option should the biochemical technology develop enough to sustain a large population.
The MFC toilet has a proposed price tag of £600 ($914), which isn’t too bad considering it might be able to recharge a cell phone while you’re doing your business.
The toilet’s creators, however, insist that the technology would have better applications in areas where there aren’t enough resources to supply people with electricity.
“This technology is a huge step forward. Living in a refugee camp is hard enough without the added threat of being assaulted in dark places at night. The potential of this invention is huge,” said Andy Bastable, head of water and sanitation at the Oxfam aid agency.
Students and faculty at the University of the West of England are encouraged to test out the prototype located on campus. The MFC technology was introduced to the campus in 2013, but the toilet is just one of the first few products to integrate it. The energy produced from the MFC was enough to purportedly power a cell phone.