Using Urine for Good

Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) installed in urinals may soon generate light for those in need.

Organic material in urine is being used to generate electricity to provide light. It may seem like a kinda gross, weird experiment, but researchers from Spain, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are working on the technology to “improve sanitation facilities in Developing World countries or in areas where there is limited electricity generation, such as refugee camps.”

The researchers, working with staff at the University of the West of England, created a device that contains an anode and cathode, where a set of reactions take place allowing collected urine to generate energy for LED tubes or light bulbs.

The process was tested at the University’s campus and at Glastonbury, the United Kingdom's largest music festival, where the use of the public urinal generated enough electricity to light up the cubicle housing the urinal. Results have been published in Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology. Researchers and non-profits like Oxfam aim to test the technology in the field, at refugee camps or communities lacking in lighting.

This technology could make conditions safer at night (particularly for women and children) by lighting up bathrooms and, hopefully, surrounding areas as well. I wonder if this could also be applied in the wake of natural disasters, if the technology can be transported easily.


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