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University's 'pee power' toilet turns urine into electricity

The "pee power" toilet at the University of the West of England uses microbial fuel cell stacks to convert urine into electricity.

By
Ben Hooper

BRISTOL, England, March 5 (UPI) -- A "pee power" toilet being tested at a British university converts urine into electricity and could bring light to refugee camps, the creators said.

Researchers at the University of the West of England in Bristol teamed with international charity Oxfam to pilot the "pee power" project with a urinal installed near the school's Student Union Bar.

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Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, project leader and director of the university's Bristol BioEnergy Center, said the urinal uses microbial fuel cell stacks to convert the urine into electricity that powers the restroom's electric lights.

"We have already proved that this way of generating electricity works. Work by the Bristol BioEnergy Center hit the headlines in 2013 when the team demonstrated that electricity generated by microbial fuel cell stacks could power a mobile phone. This exciting project with Oxfam could have a huge impact in refugee camps," Ieropoulos said.

"The microbial fuel cells work by employing live microbes which feed on urine [fuel] for their own growth and maintenance. The MFC is in effect a system which taps a portion of that biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity - what we are calling urine-tricity or pee power. This technology is about as green as it gets, as we do not need to utilize fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will be in plentiful supply."

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Andy Bastable, head of water and sanitation at Oxfam, said the toilets could prove beneficial in refugee camps where there is no electricity.

"Oxfam is an expert at providing sanitation in disaster zones, and it is always a challenge to light inaccessible areas far from a power supply. 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," he said.

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