Researchers take the piss with pee-powered liquid energy project

Bill Gates' cistern system uses your personal recharger

Boffins in Bristol have the perfect solution to the two most common late-night problems: finding somewhere to urinate and keeping your phone charged.

Liquid lab techs at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have figured out a way to take power from your pee, using an array of cylinders containing electro-active micro-organisms to turn urine into electricity; enough to slowly charge your mobile.

The cistern-system is a part of a larger push to create the "next generation of sanitation technologies" funded by Big Bill Gates of Microsoft fame. You may remember when he drank boiled poo water – same sort of thing but from the front instead of the back.

They're not taking the piss either: the "urine-tricity" has gone from concept to reality in phase one with the Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) fed with real neat urine and shown to charge a commercially available Samsung mobile phone.

Now the team of whiz-kids is in phase two with plans to make it a real-world device, using Glastonbury Festival as a showcase. And let's be honest, the more urinals on stream at the festival, the better.

Splash back

Amazingly, this is not the first time that the Bristol Robotics Laboratory has gone pee-crazy. Back in 2013, we covered how they used essentially the same chemical reaction and urine to create what they hoped would be a "waste driven robot" by building an artificial heart capable of pumping urine into the machine's bacterially driven "engine room."

They only managed to get 2.5mW out of their piss-pour process back then, so the new golden shower of power is more than 10 times more effective, although the 40mW still falls far short of the 5W produced by your typical charger.

Sadly, our vision of Terminator-style urine-powered killbots menacing humanity or hanging around toilets begging for a drink never came to fruition.

But charging up your phone while relieving yourself and setting up the next visitor with your own personal recharger – well, that is a future we can get behind. Cheers! ®

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