Scientists unveil urine-powered wearable energy generator

"This work opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics," said researcher Ioannis Ieropoulos.
By Brooks Hays   |   Dec. 11, 2015 at 1:16 PM

BRISTOL, England, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- It may be time to shut down this whole science thing. Nothing can top the latest invention out of the University of the West of England.

Researchers there have created a pair of urine-pumping socks capable of powering a wireless transmitter. It's about time.

The socks utilize what's called microbial fuel cell technology, a process that uses bacteria to turn waste fluids into electricity. The socks are embedded with a miniaturized version of the technology. Urine is pumped across the fuel cells by the walking motion of the wearer. The fuel cells power a wireless transmitter that sends a signal to a nearby computer.

It's the first time microbial fuel cell technology has been used to build a wearable energy generator.

A new paper describing the technology was published this week in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

"Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology," study author Ioannis Ieropoulos, a professor at the Bristol BioEnergy Centre, said in a press release. "We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficient, running only on human power -- using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump."

MFC isn't exclusive to urine. The technology harnesses the biochemical energy used for microbial growth -- any organic waste works.

"This work opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics," Ieropoulos added.

"For example, recent research shows it should be possible to develop a system based on wearable MFC technology to transmit a person's coordinates in an emergency situation," Ieropoulos continued. "At the same time this would indicate proof of life since the device will only work if the operator's urine fuels the MFCs."

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